Viewpoint: What’s causing an explosion in incidents of Parkinson’s disease? Do household products play a role?

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Credit: CDC/Unsplash
Credit: CDC/Unsplash

[Ray] Dorsey, a neurologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center and author of Ending Parkinson’s Disease, believes a Parkinson’s epidemic is on the horizon. Parkinson’s is already the fastest-growing neurological disorder in the world; in the US, the number of people with Parkinson’s has increased 35% the last 10 years, says Dorsey, and “We think over the next 25 years it will double again.”

Most cases of Parkinson’s disease are considered idiopathic – they lack a clear cause. Yet researchers increasingly believe that one factor is environmental exposure to trichloroethylene (TCE), a chemical compound used in industrial degreasing, dry-cleaning and household products such as some shoe polishes and carpet cleaners.

To date, the clearest evidence around the risk of TCE to human health is derived from workers who are exposed to the chemical in the work-place

While some people exposed may sicken quickly, others may unknowingly work or live on contaminated sites for most of their lives before developing symptoms of Parkinson’s.

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Failure to address the issue will not only continue to negatively affect people’s health, but will exacerbate the adult home care crisis that has already left 50 million Americans responsible for providing care to sick loved ones, as Parkinson’s is characterized by slow, progressive degeneration and has no cure.

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