A study by the Parkinson's Institute found that the risk of developing Parkinson's disease was nearly six times greater in people exposed to the common industrial solvent trichloroethylene (TCE).
Trichloroethylene, or TCE, is a solvent that was once widely used in dry cleaning and to clean grease off metal parts, and it was once used as an anesthetic, especially during childbirth. But concerns about its toxicity led to it being mostly abandoned and replaced by other anesthetics and solvents.
For the study researchers took job histories of 99 pairs of twins in which only one twin had Parkinson's Disease. Scientists used twins in the study because they are genetically identical or very similar and provide an ideal population for evaluating environmental risk factors.
"This is the first time a population-based study has confirmed case reports that exposure to TCE may increase a person's risk of developing Parkinson's disease," said Samuel Goldman, MD, MPH of the Parkinson's Institute. "TCE has been widely used for more than 50 years in a range of industrial settings and products.† It is now primarily used to clean grease off metal parts, and as a component in glues, paints, lubricants and stain removers.† PERC is the predominant solvent used in dry-cleaning."
Parkinson's disease, caused by the death of cells in the brain that secrete the neurotransmitter dopamine, is characterized by severe tremors, rigidity in the limbs and other symptoms.† It strikes an estimated 100,000 Americans each year and is ultimately fatal.† Genetics may play a role in susceptibility to Parkinson's, but the disease has also been linked to environmental factors such as pesticides and head trauma.