Study Reveals Link Between Head Trauma, Pesticides and Parkinson’s Disease

A new study published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, indicates that adults who experienced a previous head injury and who lived or worked within 500 meters of an area where the weed killer paraquat was used, are almost three times as likely to develop Parkinson’s Disease. Each of these factors – a previous head injury or exposure to paraquat – are associated independently with contributing to Parkinson’s Disease. However, the combination of the two factors were found to greatly increase the risk.

Paraquat is a common pesticide used widely in fruit orchards and plantations to control weeds and grass. It is a toxic chemical known to cause health problems, and because of its danger, it has been regulated in the United States. It is currently only available for use by licensed applicators.

Science News reports that the pesticide rotenone is also linked to Parkinson’s disease. In 2011, they reported that people who used either paraquat or rotenone were 2.5 times more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.

The study shows how important it is to consider multiple risk factors when studying neurological disorders, as opposed to focusing primarily on a person’s genetic makeup. It also adds to the expanding body of evidence that pesticide exposure is a major contributor to disease in our country.