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Pesticides have been linked to Parkinson's disease

Updated: Mar 27


Parkinson's disease is associated with pesticides

The food on the plate has been sliced into easily manageable pieces. The coffee cup sits filled halfway. Delicate items have been cleared from the dining table.

In essence, when affected by Parkinson's, the body ceases to heed the brain's commands, necessitating many adjustments in daily routines.


The dreaded neurological condition proves debilitating for sufferers, with the number of cases now seemingly on a rapid rise.

Data from August 2023 from the WHO indicates a doubling of global cases over the past 25 years.


In Denmark, an estimated 12,000 individuals currently live with the disease. However, this figure is projected to climb to 20,000 by 2040. Due to the lack of an official registry for Parkinson's cases, this estimation is based on the number of individuals receiving treatment from neurologists and private physicians.

Despite the significant increase, no studies conclusively explain its cause.


Criticism of pesticides


Per Borghammer, a professor at the Department of Nuclear Medicine and PET at Aarhus University Hospital, is among many researchers seeking to explain the surge in cases.

While aging populations contribute to observing more late-onset diseases like Parkinson's, the rise in average age alone cannot account for the surge in cases, according to Borghammer.

In recent years, Borghammer's research suggests Parkinson's may initiate outside the brain, specifically in the nasal mucosa or intestines.

"What is unique about these locations? They are in direct contact with the external environment," explains Borghammer.

"It's plausible to speculate that substances we inhale through the nose or ingest, which reach the intestines—like infections, toxins, pesticides—may trigger the disease process," he elaborates.


Parkinson's symptoms vary widely among those affected. For 50-year-old Ole Lystrup Iversen, it began nearly seven years ago with muscle stiffness and diminished function in his left hand.

Amidst a bustling career as a pharmacy owner and Danish Pharmacists' Association board member, Iversen joined the ranks of the 12,000 Danes with Parkinson's disease. Symptoms have since progressed.

The disease presents both physical symptoms and cognitive challenges for many patients, including trembling hands, muscle stiffness, constipation, loss of facial expression, speech difficulties, poor sleep, depression, and dementia.


Warning from the Parkinson's Association


As research delves into the impact of pesticides on human health, the Danish patient and family association weighs in on the debate.

In October, the Parkinson's Association cautioned against glyphosate's continued agricultural use in an op-ed in Altinget, penned by director Astrid Blom. Glyphosate, Roundup's active ingredient, has previously been suspected of contributing to various diseases.


Blom urged Environment Minister Magnus Heunicke (S) to apply the precautionary principle and oppose glyphosate's continued use. The Ministry of the Environment, in response to the Health Committee, referred to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which deems the substance safe for human health.


Dutch Parkinson's researcher Bas Bloem shares the concern. In September, he told Dutch media De Groene Amsterdammer he doubts EFSA adequately assesses the health risks.

Instead of prolonged glyphosate use, the Parkinson's Association proposes a shorter approval period and concurrent research examining the pesticide's potential link to Parkinson's disease.


"It's a widely used product, so finding a viable solution is crucial. However, ideally, its use should cease until proven safe," states Blom.


Despite protests, glyphosate's EU approval extends until December 15, 2033.

"We're concerned. When uncertainty exists, approving glyphosate's use for such a long period is worrying," says Blom.


The Parkinson's Association collaborates with European counterparts on ongoing research. Should new findings emerge on Parkinson's-pesticide links, European glyphosate approval might be reconsidered.




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