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Industrial Solvent May Increase Risk for Parkinsonism

Study links trichloroethylene exposure to nervous system disorder

FRIDAY, Jan. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Exposure to a common industrial solvent known as trichloroethylene may raise the risk for developing parkinsonism, a group of nervous system disorders with symptoms similar to Parkinson's disease, new research suggests.

Although the study focused on people working close to a source of trichloroethylene (TCE), the solvent has been found in drinking water, surface water and soil near sites where it's used, the researchers noted.

In the study, University of Kentucky researchers initially assessed three Parkinson's disease patients who'd been exposed to TCE at work for at least 25 years. Questionnaires were then sent to 134 of their factory co-workers.

The researchers found that 14 former workers who worked close to the TCE source exhibited signs of parkinsonism. This included having significantly slower fine motor hand movements than people the same age who hadn't been exposed to TCE.

Another 13 former workers who worked in the same area or slightly farther from the TCE source reported no signs of parkinsonism. However, their fine motor movements were still significantly slower than people of a similar age who were not exposed to TCE.

In additional studies with rats, the researchers found that TCE exposure inhibited mitochondrial function in the substantia nigra, an area of the brain that produces dopamine, a chemical that sends signals that control movement.

The findings were published online recently in the Annals of Neurology.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about Parkinson's disease.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Annals of Neurology, news release, Jan. 7, 2008

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