Study Suggests Link Between Common Cleaning Chemical and Parkinson’s Disease

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Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It is a chronic and progressive disease that impacts the nervous system and causes movement problems such as tremors, stiffness, and difficulty with coordination and balance. In addition to movement issues, Parkinson’s disease can cause cognitive problems such as memory loss and difficulty concentrating.

While the exact cause of Parkinson’s disease is not yet fully understood, researchers have identified various risk factors, including age, genetics, and environmental factors such as exposure to toxins. Despite ongoing research, there is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease, and treatment options focus on managing symptoms and improving the quality of life for those living with the condition. Parkinson’s disease can significantly impact individuals and their families, highlighting the need for continued research and support for those affected by the disease.  

According to recent research by scientists from the University of Rochester and published in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, a commonly used chemical called trichloroethylene (TCE) may cause Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease affects more than 8.5 million people globally and is characterized by movement issues, such as tremors, stiffened limbs, and cognitive problems.

Doctors do not yet fully understand why Parkinson’s disease occurs. Still, it has been linked to low levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the body and certain risk factors such as age and past traumatic brain injury. Exposure to toxins such as pesticides and air pollution has also been linked to Parkinson’s disease.

TCE is a colorless liquid chemical that may be found in products and industries such as commercial dry cleaning, metal degreasing, and cleaning wipes. People can become exposed to TCE by using a TCE product or working in a factory where the chemical is present. TCE can also contaminate water, air, and soil where it is used or disposed of. Symptoms of exposure to high amounts of TCE include dizziness, headaches, confusion, nausea, and facial numbness.  

Researchers had studied this link for decades, with evidence dating back to 1969 when a man who worked with TCE for over 30 years developed parkinsonism. More recent studies have found that workers exposed to TCE for extended periods developed Parkinson’s disease, and even those who were not diagnosed with the disease showed symptoms of parkinsonism. The chemical’s lipophilic properties allow it to readily distribute in the brain and body tissues, causing mitochondrial dysfunction at high doses.

This can partially explain the link to Parkinson’s disease, as dopaminergic neurons are sensitive to mitochondrial neurotoxicants. Animal studies have further shown that TCE causes the selective loss of dopaminergic neurons. PD-related neuropathology, such as neuroinflammation and alpha-synuclein accumulation, was observed in rats and mice exposed to TCE. With a potential 500% increased risk of PD for those exposed to TCE, this research provides valuable information on how TCE exposure may influence PD risk in specific populations.  

According to Dr. Dorsey, to lower people’s exposure to TCE, the US should ban TCE and PCE at a societal level. He suggested that chemists can develop safer alternatives, just like engineers have developed safer alternatives for cars and airplanes. Additionally, Dr. Dorsey suggested that the public, especially those living near contaminated sites, should be notified, and relatively inexpensive remediation systems should be used to contain and prevent the entry of these gasses into homes, schools, and workplaces. 


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