Dry-cleaning chemical may cause PARKINSON’S disease


A common chemical used to dry clean clothes may be fueling the rise of the world’s fastest-growing brain condition, Parkinson’s disease, a study suggests.

For the past 100 years, trichloroethylene (TCE) has been used to decaffeinate coffee, degrease metal, and dry clean clothes.

It has been banned by the food and pharmaceutical industries since the 1970s but is still used in many states in household products, such as cleaning wipes, aerosol cleaning products, tool cleaners, paint removers, spray adhesives, and carpet cleaners and spot removers.

A review of existing research has linked the chemical to Parkinson’s on the back of years of mounting evidence.

While its use has been slowly phased out, TCE can still be found in products for spot dry cleaning

Lead author Dr Ray Dorsey, of the University of Rochester, New York, said: ‘For more than a century TCE has threatened workers, polluted the air we breathe – outside and inside – and contaminated the water we drink. Global use is waxing, not waning.’

A global study in 2013 found it increased the risk of the neurological condition sixfold. TCE is still used as a degreasing agent.

Dr Dorsey and colleagues say the toxic chemical may be fuelling rising numbers of cases of Parkinson’s disease cases across the world.

About one million people in the US currently suffer from the condition. Doctors diagnose 60,000 Americans each year.

Brian Grant, who played for 12 years in the NBA, was struck down at the age of 36.

He was likely exposed to TCE when he was three years old. His father, then a Marine, was stationed at Camp Lejeune, where it contaminates the US military base.

Amy Lindberg was similarly exposed there while serving as a young Navy captain. She went on to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 30 years later.

The study details others whose exposure was the result of living close to a contaminated site or working with the chemical.

They include the late US Senator Johnny Isakson, who stepped down from office after his diagnosis in 2015.

Fifty years earlier, he served in the Georgia Air National Guard, which used TCE to degrease airplanes.

The US alone is home to thousands of contaminated sites. Cleaning and containment must be accelerated, say the researchers.

They argue for more research to better understand how TCE contributes to Parkinson’s and other diseases.

TCE levels in groundwater, drinking water, soil, and outdoor and indoor air require closer monitoring and this information needs to be shared with those who live and work near polluted sites.

In addition, they call for finally ending the use of these chemicals.

Two states, Minnesota and New York, have banned TCE, but the federal government has not, despite findings by the Environment Protection Agency last year that they pose ‘an unreasonable risk to human health.’

Previous research suggests a lag time of up to 40 years between TCE exposure and onset of Parkinson’s – providing a critical window of opportunity.

Worldwide there are six million people with the disease, including 145,000 in the UK.

Famous sufferers include Sir Billy Connolly, Michael J Fox and Neil Diamond. The study is in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease.

The research involved a team of experts from the Netherlands, New York, California, and Alabama and was published in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease.

It builds upon decades of research tying long-term exposure to the chemical to Parkinson’s, a progressive disease that causes nerve cells called neurons in the basal ganglia to become damaged or die, reducing levels of a brain chemical called dopamine that is vital for controlling body movement.

Sufferers often experience rigid muscles that cause the person to freeze, as well as tremors, balance problems, and slowed movements. Parkinson’s is the fastest-growing neurological disorder in the world with rates of deaths and disabilities due to PD outpacing any other condition.

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