“We need to raise awareness about this pandemic that’s happening right now.” —Bastiaan Bloem, MD.

Over the next 20 years, the number of people affected by Parkinson’s disease (PD) will likely double — from the present 6.5 million to more than 13 million — according to Bastiaan Bloem, MD, a neurologist and professor at Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center.

The main cause of this jump, Bloem explains in a Parkinson’s News Today article, is widespread exposure to herbicides, solvents, and other toxic chemicals used in agriculture and manufacturing. A tight link exists, he says, between exposure to herbicides and risk of developing Parkinson’s.

“These chemicals were introduced worldwide after World War II, and many are still used today on our fields,” Bloem explains. “For this reason, farmers are at a markedly increased risk of developing Parkinson’s. If you feed a mouse [the weed killer] paraquat — which is banned in China but not the U.S. — it will kill the dopamine-producing cells in the brain. These chemicals are tremendously toxic to the brain and have even been detected in milk, in supermarkets.”

Bloem, co-author of a new book, “Ending Parkinson’s Disease: A Prescription for Action,” says that Parkinson’s is now the fastest-growing neurological condition on the planet.

“Many neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease are increasingly common because our population is getting older,” Bloem shares. “But in a large survey published in The Lancet, after correcting for the aging effect, Alzheimer’s is stabilizing and stroke is actually diminishing thanks to better treatment.

“Literally, the only condition that’s accelerating over and above the aging effect is Parkinson’s disease.”

Paraquat isn’t the only such chemical posing this risk, Parkinson’s News Today continues. Trichloroethylene, a solvent used to clean metals and remove stains, has exactly the same effect on human brains. Yet it’s still widely used and is detectable in high concentrations in groundwater, Bloem notes.

“Parkinson’s is exploding in numbers, it’s a horribly debilitating disease, and it’s a costly disease that should matter to people and governments. We’re doing this to ourselves,” Bloem opines. “But we can do something about it. We need to get rid of these toxic pesticides and move toward organic food. And we should take measures to protect people who work in these toxic environments.”

In the book, he adds, parallels are drawn “to HIV and polio, which were once incurable, debilitating diseases. In the 1980s, people with AIDS chained themselves to the front doors of pharmaceutical companies demanding better treatments, and now people no longer die of AIDS.

“We need to raise awareness about this pandemic that’s happening right now,” Bloem says.

Others who contributed to, “Ending Parkinson’s Disease: A Prescription for Action,” include Ray Dorsey, MD, a neurologist with the University of Rochester, New York; neuroscientist Todd Sherer, PhD, chief executive officer of The Michael J. Fox Foundation; and Michael S. Okun, MD, a neurologist  with the University of Florida.

[Source: Parkinson’s News Today]