Exposure to industrial solvent 'can increase risk of Parkinson's Disease six times'!
Chemical is banned in food and pharmaceutical industries but is still used as a degreasing agent.
30% of U.S. drinking water supplies believed to be contaminated.
By Anthony Bond - 14th November 2011
A global team of scientists are hailing a major breakthrough in finding a significant link between exposure to an industrial solvent and Parkinson's disease.
A team of scientists from the U.S, Canada, Germany and Argentina found that individuals who had been exposed in the workplace to trichloroethylene (TCE) were six-times more likely to develop Parkinson's.
Diagnosis: This image shows a brain scan of a person suffering with Parkinson's disease
Due to concerns about its toxicity, the use of TCE in the food and pharmaceutical industries has been banned across much of the world since the 1970s.
However, the chemical is still used as a degreasing agent.
Dr Samuel Goldman of The Parkinson's Institute in Sunnyvale, California, who co-led the study published in the journal Annals of Neurology, told the BBC:
"Our study confirms that common environmental contaminants may increase the risk of developing Parkinson's, which has considerable public health implications."
"Our findings, as well as prior case reports, suggest a lag time of up to 40 years between TCE exposure and onset of Parkinson's, providing a critical window of opportunity to potentially slow the disease before clinical symptoms appear."
Parkinson's disease is caused by a loss of nerve cells in part of the brain.
It can results in limb tremors, slowed movement and speech impairment.
Researchers wanted to look at the impact on people of exposure to six different solvents, including TCE.
The new findings was based on analysis of 99 pairs of twins from America, one twin with Parkinson's and the other without.
Scientists looked at the work history of the twins as well as hobbies and interests, so they could calculate their exposure to solvents.
- In the past TCE has been used in glue, carpet-cleaners, paints and dry-cleaning solutions.
- It is still used as a degreasing agent for metal parts.
- It is also estimated that 30 per cent of U.S. drinking water supplies are contaminated with the chemical.
Dr Michelle Gardner, research development manager at Parkinson's UK, told the BBC that more research needed to be carried out to look at the link between solvents like TCE and Parkinson's.
She added: 'This is the first study to show that the solvent TCE may be associated with an increased risk of developing Parkinson's.
'It is important to highlight that many of the previous uses of this solvent have been discontinued for safety reasons over 30 years ago, and that safety and protection in work places where strong chemicals such as this solvent are used has greatly improved in recent years.'
Two other solvents - perchloroethylene (PERC) and carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) - were also found to pose a significant risk of developing the disease if people were exposed to them.
There was no link found with the three other solvents examined in the study - toluene, xylene and n-hexane.
PERC is used as a dry-cleaning agent and degreasing agent.
CCl4's major use in the past was in the manufacture of chlorofluorocarbons for use as refrigerants.