The cause of Parkinson’s disease—Is there a link to pesticides?
A recent analysis of the prevalence of Parkinson’s Disease across rural and urban locations has found a cluster of four adjoining rural local government areas in Victoria where a higher percentage of people are living with this debilitating disease.
In a media release dated 11 April 2016 the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, one of the research organisations involved in the study, has claimed that “This new report – focusing on one possible cause – suggests we should be exploring the potential link between the use of pesticides used in the farming of pulses and an increased risk of Parkinson’s.”
Pulse Australia is disappointed that such an association be made without first conducting detailed research into the multitude of different reasons that could account for this higher prevalence of Parkinson’s Disease in the LGAs around Buloke, Horsham, Northern Grampians and Yarriambiack in rural Victoria.
According to Parkinson’s Australia, the cause or causes of Parkinson’s Disease are currently unknown (http://[www.parkinsons.org.au/what-causes-parkinsons](http://www.parkinsons.org.au/what-causes-parkinsons)). “There are many theories as to the causes of Parkinson’s and it is generally thought that multiple factors are responsible. Through research, our understanding of the possible causes of Parkinson’s is increasing all of the time. Areas of current research include: ageing, genes, environmental factors, chemical exposure and viruses.”
With regard to the role of exposure to pesticides, Parkinson’s Australia website states: “There is limited evidence that toxins in the environment may cause dopamine-producing neurons to die, leading to the development of Parkinson’s. In particular, there has been a great deal of speculation about the link between the use of herbicides and pesticides and the development of Parkinson’s.”
Pulse Australia strongly supports the on-going medical science research into Parkinson’s Disease and other medical conditions, including investigating the impact of pesticides used in agricultural production systems.
Pulse Australia promotes the safe use of crop protection products and encourages rigorous scrutiny of products registered for use in the pulse industry and across all farming systems. We firmly believe that food safety, operator safety and the health of the broader community are of central concern and should never be overlooked. We support the ongoing research and regulation of agricultural pesticides and their safe use.
Pulse Australia supports medical researchers as they endeavour to uncover the causes of human diseases and respectfully asks that claims such as these not be circulated when they are nothing more than speculation. Such claims do not assist sufferers of conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease and can cause damage to an industry by raising concern in the mind of the community without providing any scientific evidence. In our view correlation alone does not prove causation.
The media release from the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health states: “This research does not investigate pesticides directly. The research uncovered a link between increased Parkinson’s prevalence and a geographical location. More research needs to be conducted to determine what might be the underlying cause for an increased risk of Parkinson’s. It has been known for decades that high doses of certain pesticides can be used to cause Parkinson’s disease in the laboratory – this has prompted more regulation about what types of pesticides are used, how they are used, and monitoring of produce.”
Pulse Australia recommends that additional resources and medical support services be put in place for rural people living with serious and long-term medical conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease.
The references quoted above can be found by following these links:
- Parkinson’s Australia: http://www.parkinsons.org.au
- Geographic study media release: www.florey.edu.au/news-events/news/2016-04-11/research-sheds-new-light-on-possible-causes-of-parkinson-s
- Geographic study summary: www.parkinsonsvic.org.au/images/site/publications/Fact_Sheets/Prevalence_of_Parkinsons_in_Victoria_Summary.pdf
The full report is not expected to be publicly available until late 2016.