By Jeffrey Kopman
Bug and weed killers are designed to attack bugs and weeds, not farmers and those who live in the country. Unfortunately, pesticides and rural living may lead to a higher risk of Parkinson's disease, according to an analysis published today in Neurology.
The analysis took data from 104 studies that used questionnaires to determine chemical exposure and Parkinson's disease diagnoses. Subjects were broken down by their exposure to chemicals, where they lived and various lifestyle choices, such as whether they farmed for a living or typically drank well water.
Researchers found that exposure to different chemicals and solvents was linked to an increased risk for Parkinson's disease ranging from 33 to 80 percent. Study subjects exposed to pesticides were two-thirds more likely to develop the disease than those who weren't exposed.
Rural living was tied to a 75 percent overall increased risk for Parkinson's disease, and well water drinking was linked to a 66 percent increase.
Researchers hope their findings will lead to further investigation into the cause and effect relationship of pesticides and Parkinson's disease.
"We didn't study whether the type of exposure, such as whether the compound was inhaled or absorbed through the skin and the method of application, such as spraying or mixing, affected Parkinson's risk," said study author Emanuele Cereda, MD, PhD, with the IRCCS University Hospital San Matteo Foundation in Pavia, Italy. "However, our study suggests that the risk increases in a dose response manner as the length of exposure to these chemicals increases."
The Big City's Bothers Versus The Countryside's Chronic Conditions
While country living frees people of some environmental hazards - including pollution from traffic that can increase risk of diabetes, COPD, and asthma, according to recent research - studies have shown that it's not all green grass and sunshine.
Rural living has been linked to higher rates of chronic diseases compared to people living in cities. This factor could be attributed to the gap in care: Rural areas of the United States often have fewer healthcare options, and live further away from the doctors and hospitals that do exist.
Farmers and their families face another unique health problem: Agricultural industrial hazards, like tractors and machinery, lead to thousands of children being hospitalized per year.
"People that live in rural areas are more likely to be around farming activities. It is thought that this leads to a higher exposure to pesticides," said Gary W. Miller, Ph.D., Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
Exposure to these chemicals has been linked to an increased risk for developing ADHD, prostate cancer, and now Parkinson's disease.
Pesticides are not as big of a problem for city slickers, but exposure to overcrowded public transportation systems and crowded streets can lead to an exceptional spreading of germs and viruses, like the flu scare of 2012-2013.
Ultimately, while the cleaner air and open space might seem like a healthier alternative to skyscrapers and cement, both rural and urban living carry their own unique health risks.
"Both [country and city living] have pluses and minuses," said Dr. Miller. "In my opinion the country is superior from a health perspective. People tend to be more active and have lower exposure to pollution."
"Pesticides, Country Living May Increase Risk of Parkinson's Disease" originally appeared on Everyday Health.