When you read about Parkinson’s, you frequently see the term ‘toxic’. By definition toxic means poisonous whether it be in a medical dictionary or a legal dictionary. So in essence, some mechanism is poisoning the brain in Parkinson’s. Understanding the underlying mechanisms is complicated business. Discoveries may show that a particular chemical or compound may cause certain symptoms of the disease, that doesn’t mean it’s understood. This is where we arrive at the immediate problem of treating it. Without full understanding of what is poisoning the brain and body it is only possible to treat the outward symptoms of it, not the underlying cause or mechanism. Once the underlying mechanism is identified, then we must understand how to reverse it without disturbing other critical functions. We have not done this with Parkinson’s and other neurological disorders. In fact, many of the treatments themselves have adverse affects on the body. This is not a good way to manage a disease, especially if the potential is there to exacerbate or speed the course of the illness.
The knowledge of toxins related to Parkinson’s has grown in recent years and there are different modes of toxicity each possibly being derived of its own etiology and presentations. There are a myriad of ways that neurological symptoms can be caused, toxins are by far the most common although injury is often reported and not understood to any significant degree. There are natural and man made toxins which essentially covers everything in existence. Obviously that isn’t a big help in understanding Parkinson’s. Natural toxins can include metals, plants, bacteria or venoms.
Cycads are suspected of being a possible cause of the Guam outbreak and have known neurotoxic effects. Cycads
include many palm-type plants, some of them being coniferous and grow in warmer climates. Alternatively other plants are known toxins that can cause paralysis or other neurological symptoms such as American hellebore which grows prominently in the northern hemisphere. Deadly nightshade is another toxic plant which is the source of Atropine and has been used to treat Parkinson’s. Both can be used as medications but can have severe toxic effect if improperly dosed. Some plants such as Autumn Crocus (Colchicum Autmnale) or Monkshood (Aconitum Napellus) are so toxic that death results almost immediately if ingested. Plants can have incredibly powerful effects in the human body. Typically plants are not suspected of causing Parkinson’s with the exception of cycads, although they may provide a means of treatment based on their chemical makeup.
Metal toxicity is strongly implicated in Parkinson’s, particularly Iron. Some types of metal toxicities occur in short order and are obviously recognizable. Aluminum and Mercury are known to cause a certain range of symptoms, these are active toxins because they are not stored or used in the body. This is different from copper, iron and manganese because the body normally metabolizes and regulates these metals. Iron appears to be the most complex in regards to metabolism, probably because of its abundance and necessity. Ferritin is a protein that regulates Iron in the body and converts toxic iron to a safe and usable iron. Still, the problem is not likely direct damage to the ferritin protein but the enzymes that act to code the protein. This is deep inside the cellular structure, so there are significant things occurring right at the root of life itself. Although we understand the physical aspects of cellular structure, we are just scratching the surface of how chemical and enzymatic reactions affect cell structure. Manganese intoxication is known to cause Parkinson’s and exhibits damage to the basal ganglia. Direct manganese poisoning is actually relatively uncommon and definable by MRI. Statistics would indicate this. Another type of more common manganese poisoning in Parkinson’s is caused by elevated manganese levels in the brain thought to be a byproduct of zinc deficiency.
Spirochetes are bacteria that can cause Parkinson’s type symptoms. The primary bacteria noted for this is the one that causes syphilis. After it goes through a latent stage it often presents with neurological problems. An advised physician would often be able to identify this when closely comparing symptoms. The same is true for the Lyme Spirochete which is often associated with Parkinson’s but not a likely cause. The toxic means of Lyme is via an enzyme that blocks Acetylcholine, so neurological effects are possible with infection. There are many different spirochetes but Lyme simply gets a lot more attention because it has become a common household term. Most of the conjecture associating Lyme with Parkinson’s is just that conjecture. If it was peanuts, well then it would certainly be a huge problem because everyone knows what a peanut is. The point is that if it is something well known and it gets into the media then it will become a hot topic for some time, often not accurately represented. Much study and research has been done in regards to these types of bacteria and Parkinson’s. H. Pylori are another spirochete found in cat feces that is often mentioned due to paraphrased and irresponsible reporting in the media, just to include it. A major difference between chemicals and bacteria is that bacteria on the whole will do the same thing every time so the mechanism can sometimes be identified through its action. Chemicals on the other hand can cause a whole host of dysfunctions to occur in a number of different ways, many unknown. It is understood that this is occurring at the molecular level, that part isn’t a mystery.
Cyanobacteria are actually quite common in the environment and a possible source of Parkinson’s. Most people would not be familiar with the term but if you mention toxic or blue green algae it suddenly becomes familiar. They are a type of bacteria, not algae. Phosphate run off from fertilizers into standing lakes and waterways encourages the growth of this ‘toxic algae’. It is also suspected as a probable cause of ALS based on a study from Dartmouth where clusters of ALS patients were found near contaminated lakes. More supportive evidence of cyanobacteria as a cause of neurological disease was an outbreak in Guam in the 1950’s. Cyanobacteria produce a chemical called BMAA which is suspected of causing neurological problems and certain types of dementia. This has been studied for some time and continues to be studied. The reality of it may in fact be that the organophosphate present in the cycads are partly responsible rather than the cycads alone. Again, understanding the mechanism at work is a key factor in understanding. One distinct difference between bacteria and chemicals is that bacteria can be killed, chemicals cannot.
Venoms are quite interesting because in many of them the essence of the venom is to paralyze the nervous system. The mechanisms of these venoms have received some study in treating Parkinson’s including Bee, Cobra and Lizard venom. These venoms as with plant toxins tend to have an immediate effect rather than a long term degenerative effect. Understanding the mechanisms of these neurotoxins may lead to a better understanding of how to both suppress and excite the nervous system. Because of their direct effect these types of venoms may prove beneficial in treatment by exerting a direct influence on neuronal activity. Studies
should be conducted to address changes that occur in DNA and protein synthesis from venoms, but they are not likely to lead to a functional cure due to the immediate response by the body. The role of venoms would likely be isolated to symptomatic treatments.
Man made toxins are wide ranging and much more likely to cause long-term effects. This is due to the fact that many man made toxins and chemicals have a more indirect effect by doing specific damage at the cellular level that affects the production of proteins and the proper coding of DNA at the cellular level. Rather than having a direct toxic effect which is not the case in Parkinson’s. These toxins change the manner in which cells reproduce and continue to do so over a long period of time. As improper protein and DNA replication is repeated, it becomes degenerative in nature. Chemicals may in fact provoke an unnatural immune response in the body via enzyme and amino acid inhibition that ultimately reprograms the body’s ability to metabolize toxins.
If Parkinson’s is in fact caused by toxins, knowing what these potential toxins are, how they affect the body, the prevalence in the environment and the distribution of them is critical. Listed below are many of the possible toxins that cause this disease. Some are definitively known to cause symptoms while others are suspected. Something that is not often studied is the interaction between several toxins and resulting toxicity. This is a significant problem that has been created. Correcting it will be a monumental act.
The number one suspects relating to toxic means are pesticides and herbicides. There are many other potential causes, but these two chemical classifications have been well studied and documented to be harmful. There are many other household chemicals and environmental contaminants that we are exposed to every day that can lead to this also.
Genetic inheritance can almost be ruled out as a primary cause of new cases as it encompasses less than 2 percent of all those afflicted. So that loosely infers that up to 98 percent of cases could be related to toxins. What does that say? When you look at the demographics of Parkinson’s over time, there has been a definite shift in the age balance. Many younger people are being diagnosed with Parkinson’s. The incidence also appears to be on the rise much faster than has been suggested. Prevalence studies in 2007 indicated that there were between 4.1 and 4.6 million people in 2005 and was expected to grow to between 8.7 and 9.3 million by 2030. In 2013 the estimation is that there are between 7 and 10 million. That’s quite a deviance in the expected growth rate if the numbers are accurate. One distinct possibility is that the level of toxins and rate of exposure has increased markedly. The increase in amount of chemicals produced over time and its relationship to population growth could easily be calculated using census numbers and corporate production figures. The use of Monsanto’s Glyphosate alone has grown 10-fold in the last 20 years. 2,4-D is also being reintroduced commercially because many of the weeds associated with genetically engineered crops are becoming resistant to Glyphosate necessitating the need for other herbicides. This is a matter that has a myriad of problems. Agro-Science is essentially backing everyone into a corner by producing both these chemicals and the seeds that are resistant to them. This directly affects the level of toxins that we put into our bodies and the majority of people are completely unaware of it. This is what happens when large corporations are allowed to corner such an enormous market. Glyphosate has been said to be unavoidable in the environment as well as 2,4-D. The percentage of genetically modified seeds in some crops is now over 80 percent. This ultimately will lead to the extinction of organic seeds. There
is no apparent knowledge regarding the consequences of this either to the effect on the environment or the quality food supply.
There is a tremendous amount of money in the business of crop and chemical production. There are a number of different reasons for this. Obviously the world's population growth and ensuing need for food is number one. The society that we have currently evolved into also plays an important role. Technology on the whole has created a level of dependency in the world that never been seen before. Many of the conveniences in life are slowly stripping away the ability of the world’s population to subsist on its own. There is no necessity to learn these skills because food and water are so readily available. Even further compounding that issue is the fact that a tremendous amount of harmful chemicals are used to produce these conveniences from something as simple as a potato chip to a cellular phone. Many of them are solvents or harsh cleaning chemicals that are necessary in high volume production. A majority of these chemicals find their way into our water supply, food supply and the air that we breathe. As technology advances it also enables us to more clearly understand the effects of the use of these substances. A secondary factor to this type of production that there are often byproducts produced when making these chemicals. These byproducts are often found in the end product and are not required to be listed on the product label. They are also frequently the most toxic chemicals in the product and known to have a number of health effects. Often they are what are known as binding agents that are used to maintain solubility between other chemicals or surfactants which aid in the adherence of the combined chemicals to the crop being sprayed. These binding agents and surfactants are many times suspected to actually be the toxic mechanism at work in many of these
chemical products. There are critical flaws in our product labeling system. Not revising it completely inhibits scientific progress forcing scientists to waste precious time to conduct extensive testing to identify a chemical byproduct that was already known to exist by the manufacturer.
A couple of good examples of this are Proctor and Gamble’s changing of their Tide detergent formula because it was found to contain Dioxane. Dioxane is a cleaning agent used in the disinfecting of equipment used to manufacture Tide. The liver and kidney’s are the primary targets for Dioxane and it is a known carcinogen. Unfortunately it took a law suit and pressure from numerous consumer groups to effect the change.
2,4-D is another product that is suspected of being be toxic by itself. In 2005 samples of taken by the EPA showed 25 percent of 2,4-D to be contaminated with Dioxin. Dioxin is a known carcinogen and is also known to cause reproductive problems and interfere with hormones to name a few of the effects. In 2012 the EPA denied a petition to cancel all registrations for 2,4-d based largely in part by studies conducted by the manufacturer. This is another horribly flawed system. These chemicals should be independently studied for toxicity prior to registration. There is most definitely a conflict of interest regarding the source of the science. Significant public pressure related to current independent scientific studies is having some effect on the EPA and the registration status of 2,4-D. It will most likely be a very slow process because there is a tremendous about of money at stake for the manufacturers.
There are a lot of politics involved in the production of toxic chemicals also. Provisions are often included in unrelated bills introduced into the U.S. Congress. The ‘Monsanto Protection Act’ was enacted as a part of a temporary funding bill in May of 2013. The provision granted immunity from prosecution in the federal courts in regards experimental crops as well as limiting the ability of Farmers to sue the company. The provision was not renewed in September 2013 largely due to public pressure. Oregon however did pass a Monsanto Protection Act in October of 2013 limiting local governments and municipalities’ ability to regulate the farming of genetically engineered crops. This is most certain to end up in the U.S. Supreme Court because it conflicts with federal law and involves interstate commerce.
Many types of solvents also demonstrate toxic action at the cellular level. Toluene, Benzene, Xylene, Trichloroethylene, Hexane and Carbon Disulfide are all commonly used industrial solvents. All of these solvents have known health effects. Many of them are contained and available in consumer products such as carburetor cleaner, brake cleaner, engine degreaser and other cleaning products. Something important to note is that many of these products are used in the regular course of business in many commercial industries. Their presence in the environment is not unknown but probably grossly underestimated.
2,4-D was developed in the 1940’s and is now a widely used component of both commercial and residential weed killers. It is used widely throughout the world and has been linked to a large number of disorders and illnesses. It is sold directly to the consumer through more than 1500 brand names thus making it difficult to monitor use. The EPA technical fact sheet on 2,4-D states that it has the potential to cause damage to the nervous system, kidneys and liver. It is the fact that it is not considered a carcinogen that it is allowed to maintain its current labeling and registration. The neurological association alone should be enough to restrict its use and conduct further more conclusive independent studies. 2,4-D is also frequently given to be the cause of Parkinson’s in Vietnam veterans from the use of Agent Orange. Agent Orange is a combination of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T. The cases in Vietnam were attributed to a contaminant in the 2,4,5-T component that resulted from overheating during the manufacturing process. The contaminant is known as Dioxin. The U.S. EPA states that 25 percent of 2,4-D samples collected in 2005 were contaminated with Dioxin which kind of nullifies the theory that is was a byproduct of 2,4,5-T. Even minute traces of Dioxin are known to have adverse health effects. Dioxin aka TCDD is listed separately.
2,4-D works in plants by causing unsustainable cell division. Essentially the plants cells grow so fast that they cannot obtain enough nutrients to survive. So how does it affect the human body? As you would guess, no direct studies have been conducted. However, extensive testing has been done on a variety of plants and animals producing what should be alarming statistics considering that we are in the mammalian family also.
Dow Chemical is involved in the production and distribution of 2,4-D. The Monsanto company and Dow both are engineering seeds that bear plants resistant to 2,4-D. This enables the spraying of 2,4-D as crop a weed control method. Aside from the fact that 2,4-D is being sprayed directly on crops including foodstuffs, it typically exists in the soil for about six months. As a result of this it ends up in the water supply. It is not uncommon in the environment. One issue with this chemical is that a byproduct is created in the process of manufacturing. This chemical has known harmful if not disastrous health effects. Dioxin is not listed or recognized as an active ingredient of 2,4-D even though Dioxin is detected in 25 percent of official 2,4-D samples taken. The responsibility for this glitch in labeling actually falls upon on policy and rule makers in political circles. There is a great amount of money involved in this game and the EPA frequently relies on scientific evidence provided by the manufacturers who have a definite conflict of interest.
Many of the adverse health effects of 2,4-D are actually well known in the scientific and corporate community, including Monsanto, Dow, the EPA, the FDA and the USDA. Its regulation tends to fall into the convoluted lobbying arena as a question of “How toxic is toxic?” and “What is Exposure?” The large corporations that produce these chemicals vehemently deny adverse health effects when there is evidentiary science that implicates 2,4-D in many health problems. They often will overlook or omit definitive studies on toxicity. The “toxicology studies” listed by the chemical companies are carefully selected. They often are nothing more than a re-evaluation decision that has no specific toxicology study to support it. It has been known that 2,4-D inhibits enzymes that are normally active in the body since at least 1966. The result of prolonged or excessive exposure to it actually inhibits the body's natural ability to protect and repair itself. When we are dealing with a chemical that alters basic and vital cellular structure we must study and evaluate the consequences associated with its use. The endocrine system regulates hormones in the body. It is considered an endocrine disruptor, and CNS toxin. It is a known liver toxicant that inhibits enzymes and reduces hemoglobin according to the EPA in 2007. The known effects of 2,4-D on the human body are insignificant when compared to unknown causes.
Acephate is an organophosphate insecticide used in both commercial and residential applications. It is used directly on crops and as a crop seed treatment as well as a general use pesticide. It is listed as a potential carcinogen and is known to have immediate and short term effects on the nervous system. It is not directly implicated in Parkinson’s but symptoms such as tremor, memory loss, lethargy and weakness can occur. Many studies have been done on Acephate and long term effects are still not clearly identified.
Agent Orange- included in 2,4-D.
Aluminum is commonly found in food and drinking water. Aluminum plays no known role in the body and must be ingested or absorbed. Aluminum is suspected as a cause of toxicity and cell death in ALS and Parkinson’s. High levels of aluminum have been detected in the brains of patients. The mechanism of toxicity is not well understood. It would be reasonable to assume that the ability of the body to metabolize and detoxify this metal is inhibited.
Aspartame is a commonly used sweetener known as NutraSweet. There is intense public scrutiny as to the health effects of it. Much of the controversy surrounds the amino acid phenylalanine because 50 percent of NutraSweet is made up of it. A genetic condition called phenylketonuria stems from the lack of an enzyme to convert phenylalanine to tyrosine. There is much internet lore associating NutraSweet with nearly 100 different conditions. Much of it lacks scientific credibility on both sides of the debate. Doses of higher than 5000mg can be toxic and cause nerve damage. It can also have interactions with certain types of drugs including several that are used for Parkinson’s. There is a considerable amount of study on NutraSweet but as of yet there is not conclusive evidence that it leads to specific health conditions such as Parkinson’s or Cancer. Long term independent studies should continue to be conducted and in general it should be avoided until conclusive scientific evidence is available. Studies on short-term doses at the level of acute toxicity will yield no clinical results. The producers of Aspartame rely on these three to five day studies to support its safety and it is not by any means an accurate representation of potential long term health effects.
Benomyl registration was voluntarily cancelled by DuPont in 2001 and sale and distribution was cancelled on Dec. 31, 2002. It is a fungicide that began use since 1969 on a wide variety of fruit, nut and other food crops. In 1987 the EPA issued a registration standard requesting more data. DuPont’s response was to voluntarily cancel the registration of it systematically until final cancellation in 2001. Obviously voluntary cancellation of such a widely used, highly effective and inexpensively product by a company at the request of further data is a direct indication of its known toxicity.
In 2013, a UCLA study established a link between Benomyl and Parkinson’s even suggesting that it may occur in people who were never exposed to it. Toxicological effects remain after more than 10 years. It is highly likely that DuPont was aware of this link long before this discovery was made. This is a major pitfall in the use of manufacturer studies when assessing the safety of a chemical because there is no incentive to turn over information that would impact the company’s sale and registration of a product. In addition to that DuPont probably spared itself from numerous costly lawsuits that are either time barred or have become time barred by simply stalling the legal process by not turning over relevant data on health effects which have probably long since been disposed of.
According to the UCLA study, Benomyl inhibits the enzyme ALDH from controlling the neurotoxic effects of DOPAL in the brain and the exposure leads to a series of cellular events that cause Parkinson’s. The EPA states that other effects of Benomyl include liver toxicity, developmental toxicity and reproductive effects. It is also suspected to be a human carcinogen. Benomyl is still used in some countries. The investigation into the health effects and long term fate should continue to be assessed independently.
BMAA is a known neurotoxin produced by cyanobacteria in blue green algae growth. Excessive growth of these bacteria is spurred on by the runoff from phosphates contained in fertilizer. It is highly suspected as a cause of ALS via water supplies near affected lakes. In the 1950’s there was an outbreak of ALS and Parkinson’s like illnesses in Guam. BMAA has been implicated in this outbreak numerous times and is extensively studied. There are currently studies examining BMAA and the possible link. If this is a cause of these diseases, it could potentially pose a public health threat due to the widespread growth of this bacterium. Incidentally a search of Kiribati in Guam in the CIA Fact Book revealed that phosphate mining was a major part of the economy until commercially available deposits were exhausted in 1979, so the relation to phosphates and the growth of BMAA in algae should be closely studied.
BPA is a chemical that has been widely used in many types of plastics and as a protective lining in food cans. It also can be found in many cosmetic products, CDs, dental fillings and a variety of other products. The FDA has been reviewing its guidelines for the allowable uses of BPA since a report was produced by the National Institutes of Health in 2008 indicating that there were several types of health concerns associated with its use. The FDA continues to allow the use of BPA while further studies are being conducted, although it has recently been banned the use of it in plastic baby bottles. This may seem like exactly what it is. Inaction on banning this chemical from food processing is mostly a result of not having an immediate substitute available. BPA is used so widely in the food industry that it would have a tremendous impact on the food production and delivery system were its use immediately banned. There would also be significant financial implications associated with banning it.
BPS is another chemical that has been designed as a substitute to BPA. Unfortunately it was also determined to be an endocrine disruptor also, neither is safe. There is a possibility that an unlisted byproduct is responsible here. This is another example of allowing the use of a chemical that is widely exposed to the public without substantial testing of the health effects. This is an alarmingly frequent occurrence both in the FDA and the EPA. When there is an issue it can takes years to impose restrictions on them. With the current state of technology, there is absolutely no reason that we can test the health effects of every chemical in use prior to registration.
BPA has been indicated as an endocrine disruptor meaning that it affects hormones via the glands in the body. In a 2005 study released by the EPA, BPA was loosely associated with endocrine damage. The study was carefully worded acknowledging that it was known to bind with human endocrine receptors but that it was inconclusive because actual testing on a humans was not completed. This is a huge red flag for scientific journals and the EPA is fully aware of that.
The actual mechanism of action for BPA in the human body is still unknown. The EPA report stated that morphological, cellular and gene expression changes were of interest. It further stated that the hormonal pathways were uncertain and that there may be multiple pathways which in effect are the mode of action.
BPA has been recently implicated as a causative factor in the gene and hormone changes associated with breast cancer. In addition it has been shown to block the action of breast cancer drugs. There has been some association with Parkinson’s but it has not been clearly identified. It relates to the effects of BPA on dopaminergic system. If the actual mechanism of action was known it might be possible to determine if there is an association. Current data does not support it as a cause of Parkinson’s. It would be prudent to conduct studies of BPA and other chemicals combined to assess the risk factors of BPA and Parkinson’s as it is already known to bind to endocrine receptors. Whether or not it binds to other chemicals and endocrine receptors at the same time would be a proper course of study. BPA may not be a direct cause of the disease but it certainly could be a potential risk factor as a binding agent at the cellular level. It must be further investigated.
Carbamates are a class of insecticides that act through the reversible inhibition of an enzyme called Acetylcholinesterase. This function is also present in organophosphates but is much more complicated to reverse. Carbamates are used in many consumer products and are also known to be highly toxic to bees. There is the potential for carbamates to cause Parkinson’s symptoms but it would most likely be associated with the balance of Acetylcholine and dopamine than anything else. Carbamates are rarely associated with Parkinson’s although it is certainly possible that it may play a role in other diseases. They have even been considered as a form of treatment to balance dopamine and Acetylcholine levels in the Parkinson’s brain. This is of course not by any means a viable treatment because it lends nothing to treating the true etiology of the disease.
Carbon disulfide is a compound frequently used as a building block in organic chemistry. It has the ability to bind with many other compounds and is also used as a solvent, insecticide and in manufacturing. Carbon disulfide has been linked to Parkinson’s in several studies but not conclusively. The means of toxicity is not established. However, carbon disulphide interferes with pyridoxal 5-phosphate. Pyridoxal 5-phosphate is essential for the formation of dopamine from L-dopa. So carbon disulphide may cause Parkinson's disease symptoms by reducing the formation of L-dopa.
Copper is commonly found in the environment in many forms and is suspected to play a role in several neurological disorders. It is known to have binding capacity with proteins. The role in copper is believed to be related to enzyme metabolism of the metal in the body. Copper is metabolized and transported by the liver. In Wilson’s disease which is similar to Parkinson’s, the liver lacks the ability to detoxify the body of copper via the genetic lack of enzymes to metabolize this metal.
Cyanobacteria are discussed under BMAA.
Dicamba is an herbicide that is widely used under many different product labels. The relationship with Parkinson’s can most closely be associated with its contaminants, Dioxin and nitrosamines. Dioxin is a known contributor to the disease. It is often combined with other chemicals used on an agricultural or residential basis including 2,4-D. The potential for Dicamba being a contributing factor in Parkinson’s disease is extremely high. The mode of action is similar to that of 2,4-D in the effect that it increases unsustainable cell division which occurs by improper protein production and incorrect DNA coding. Combining that information with the fact that it also produces Dioxin as a byproduct makes this a prime candidate to investigate. Dicamba is listed on the label of these products but probably receives less attention because it is not as commonly noted as 2,4-D. The combination of these two chemicals could absolutely have devastating effects on the nervous system. The combination of the two and the health effects should be closely studied.
Dioxane is listed for use as a solvent according to the 2013 EPA factsheet. It is known to cause severe damage to the liver and kidneys and is classified as a probable carcinogen. Sources of Dioxane include occupational, groundwater, food additives and recently as a byproduct of certain types of manufacturing processes such as cosmetics and shampoos. Dioxane is not biodegradable and moves quickly into groundwater. Trace amounts are commonly found in water supplies. There are no federal drinking water standards established for Dioxane. The mechanism of action for Dioxane in health problems is not fully understood. The ATDSR released a 295 page report on the toxicity of Dioxane. Liver and kidney damage appears to be the most noticeable direct effect of poisoning. It is being closely studied as a possible carcinogen. Due to its ability to damage to the liver, it should be very closely examined in the etiology of Parkinson’s.
Dioxins are a group of chemically related compounds that are persistent environmental pollutants. Dioxin is broadly distributed in the environment and most contamination is found in the soil, meat and dairy products and shellfish. Dioxins are stable molecules that remain in the body for many years. They do occur naturally in some instances but the majority of Dioxins are produced as unwanted byproducts of manufacturing. Dioxin accumulates in fatty tissues and is known to cause altered liver function, heart disease and diabetes, reproductive problems and likely cancer. Dioxin contamination in Agent Orange is frequently associated with Parkinson’s in Vietnam veterans.
Diquat is a non-selective herbicide used mostly in non- crop weed control with limited crop use. It is not registered as a restricted use pesticide. Diquat is known to be a neurotoxin that is believed to act systemically rather than directly. Changes in the Pons are noted in fatal poisonings, this is an interesting feature to note. In Multiple System Atrophy (Parkinson’s on steroids) MRI’s will periodically reveal a flattening of the Pons that is not demonstrated in idiopathic Parkinson’s. MSA displays the same symptoms as Parkinson’s but the rate of progression is drastically accelerated and can be noted through sophisticated imaging. Correlating these MRI activities in the brain with levels of exposure could yield significant clues in the etiology of the disease. The evidence of Pons damage from Diquat poisoning supports its status as a neurotoxin. Long term studies should be conducted and this chemical should probably be regulated in its use as it is often used to control aquatic weeds and can leach into water supplies.
Fluoride is found in toothpaste, water, vitamins, pesticides and some cleaning products. Fluoride toxicity and its mechanisms are fairly well understood and poisoning is often identifiable. Some recent theories in Parkinson’s involve calcium deposits in the brain. Fluoride has the affinity to bind to calcium so there is a potential mechanism available. Fluoride is also known to interfere with enzyme systems and inhibit Acetylcholinesterase. It has also frequently suggested that fluoride leads to calcification of the Pineal gland which can lead to neurological problems once a certain mass is reached.
It is understandable how fluoride could be considered for Parkinson’s and there is much internet lore associated with it but little science to back it up. The lack of science is simply due to the overall lack of studies funded. It merits further study based solely on its ability to interfere with enzymes. The relationship to Parkinson’s is relatively loose. The associated symptoms of toxicity are tremor, muscle spasms and weakness. There are other obvious symptoms of toxicity making it distinguishable from Parkinson’s. Aside from the calcium binding there is not significant evidence to tie fluoride to Parkinson’s.
Glyphosate is probably the most commonly used weed killer in the world. It is manufactured by the Monsanto Corporation and has been in use since 1974. It is a non- selective herbicide that is used in agricultural, commercial and residential applications. It has been said to be unavoidable in the environment. Glyphosate is also readily sprayed on many crops that are being genetically engineered to be resistant to it. Soybeans, corn, sugar beets and others have already been modified for its use. Many of the weeds that it is used to control have become resistant to its effects spurring the need to use other chemicals such as 2,4-D and Dicamba. This is a tremendous problem not because it’s not killing the weeds but because the chemical companies will produce even more toxic chemicals that will enter the marketplace without proper testing and evaluation. The system for putting chemicals to market and exposing the public to potential health effects is irretrievably broken and is in need of complete overhaul.
Glyphosate is currently what could be called a prime suspect in neurological and potentially other disorders. Monsanto claims that it is 100 percent safe, spending millions of dollars in campaigns supporting its use. Of course, Monsanto is involved in the production of genetically altered glyphosate resistant seeds so there is an even larger incentive to produce and distribute it. Through political lobbying, Monsanto was able to convince the EPA to double the maximum allowable amounts to be sprayed on crops. This particular chemical is independently forcing our dependence on its use and is toxic in nearly any aspect that it is viewed. Its widespread use is altering the flora and fauna of our planet. Simple consideration of the fact that weeds are becoming resistant to it denotes its ability to force genetic alteration. This is not a good thing from any perspective.
Glyphosates’ mode of action is through inhibiting enzymes that reduce amino acids that are vital for protein and synthesis and growth. The pathway that it acts through is absent in mammals thus justifying the claims that is not toxic to humans. This is called selective science and is a flawed method of research. Simply because the active pathway in plants in absent in mammals does not mean that it cannot take a different pathway in mammals, after all it is designed to be an enzyme inhibitor. The mechanism of toxicity in mammals is claimed to be unknown. This is not entirely true, but it may be related to yet another chemical contained in the many different formulations of glyphosate. Polyoxyethyleneamine is a surfactant or detergent added to glyphosate formulations to increase the binding capacity to plants. It is thought that it may by itself be more toxic than glyphosate alone. This chemical is not clearly identified on the label; rather it is included under the umbrella of surfactants. The EPA lists similar chemicals as inert ingredients and does not provide a fact sheet for this specific chemical. This is wrong because it is an active ingredient and should be specifically listed not to mention that it should have an MSDS of some type.
In 2013 an article relating to glyphosate and the inhibition of Cytochrome P-450 was published. It indicated a direct link between disease and glyphosate via a secondary pathway to the P-450 Cytochrome. It of course has received much criticism, mostly by individual writers or bloggers who clearly have no understanding of molecular biology. It also elicited a direct response from Monsanto calling it “another bogus study” which in itself signifies that the study does have some validity.
This is of course exceptionally complicated to understand. There is necessity in understanding the rationale and the theory behind this. Before entering into this discussion it must first be understood what a Cytochrome is and what it does. The most simplified definition of Cytochrome is a pigment in mitochondria that transports electrons in the process of aerobic respiration. Cytochrome P-450 is a class of more than 1000 enzymes that are located near the center of a cell that play a role in the elimination of a variety of toxins in the body. P-450 cells are primarily located in the liver but are also noted throughout many other tissues in the body. “Diseases caused by mutations in cytochrome P450 genes typically involve the buildup of substances in the body that are harmful in large amounts or that prevent other necessary molecules from being produced.” This is the basis for the implication of glyphosate in the etiology of Parkinson’s. The study somewhat focuses on the Western diet playing a role in the etiology of several diseases. The relevance to diet may give indications as to why diet appears to be a relevant means to ease Parkinson’s symptoms as certain diets seem to have quite a profound effect on the disease. This is an exceptionally confusing matter because of the complex biochemistry involved. In shorter terms, glyphosate disrupts the amino acid balance in the body leading to a breakdown in both the detoxification system and the synthesis of proteins and DNA. Glyphosate is not clearly stated and identified to cause Parkinson’s but the methodology, theory and known science behind Cytochromes strongly points to potential modes of action in a chemical. It would be relevant to research each Cytochrome and understand its function. There may be other more obvious methods to initiate genetic changes at this level within the cell. Without going into extensive detail, the study does indicate a pathway to disease.
Argentina has seen a surge in cancer, birth defects and other illnesses since 1996 when it began using soy bean crops that were genetically modified for glyphosate resistance. Monsanto claims that it is not their product and furthermore goes the extent to call it “perfectly safe”. Monsanto also goes on to say that “If pesticides are being misused….it needs to stop.” If it’s perfectly safe, how can it be misused? Either people in Argentina are dying from this chemical and its application or an incredible coincidence at hand here. The use of insecticides and herbicides in Argentina is five times what it was 20 years ago. Typically if a large corporation goes to the effort to make public statements in press releases calling a university or other independent scientific studies “bogus” or “bad science” this indicates something is afoot and that they are already aware of it.
Hexane is an organic solvent made from petroleum distillates. The main use is to extract edible oils from seed and vegetable crops, it is widely used. Hexane is thought to have reproductive effects all well as being known to cause neuropathy and CNS problems in acute cases of poisoning. Studies have indicated that hexane is not metabolized well in Parkinson’s patients and that the body has an inability to detoxify it and expel it. This is a common theme with solvents and organophosphates. It is not heavily restricted due to it’s classification as a non-carcinogen. Long term exposure studies must be conducted in relation to solvents such as this as it can take years for exposure to become symptomatic due to enzyme damage.
Iron is covered under causes.
Maneb is a fungicide widely used on vegetable and fruit crops. It is considered mildly toxic, but chronic exposure did demonstrate some Parkinson’s symptoms. Studies on this chemical are mixed. In 2005 the EPA listed it as having “Suggestive evidence of carcinogenicity but not sufficient to assess human carcinogenic potential” whatever that means. In addition Maneb was removed from certain labels for use thereby restricting its use. The mode of action is not completely understood. It is thought to systematically destroy dopaminergic neurons. Its primary effect is on the kidneys and thyroid although it is also a suspected carcinogen.
MPTP was discovered in 1947 and was being tested for medical use when there was a discovery that it induced Parkinson’s like symptoms. It came to the forefront in the early 1980’s when several drug users injected a form of synthetic heroin contaminated with MPTP. They developed Parkinson’s symptoms in a matter of days. MPTP obviously is a cause of Parkinson’s, but at the same time it is not a common cause of the disease due to its relative scarcity in the environment. It has been used to create the herbicide cyperquat of which little to no information is available other than a few toxicology studies. The EPA does not appear to have a technical factsheet for cyperquat available.
MPTP is frequently used to induce Parkinson’s because the presentation effect on the brain is so similar. There has been some hypothesis that MPTP could be absorbed in undetectable amounts through environmental exposure that has yet to be proven. The likelihood of this being the case is limited as MPTP induced Parkinson’s does not encompass all symptoms of Parkinson’s. MPTP responds to MAO-B inhibitors which is not true for all cases of Parkinson’s. If MPTP is a toxic cause of unknown etiologies of Parkinson’s, it is a small or secondary contributor to the development of the disease. It is valuable as a research aid but scientists cannot rely on MPTP and Paraquat alone to induce Parkinson’s. They must continue to search for all possible causes or combination of factors relating to cause to be successful in treatment.
Other household chemicals have the potential to cause Parkinson’s and many other illnesses. More than 84,000 chemicals are registered by the EPA. A large number of these chemicals have not undergone independent studies on health effects. The studies relied on by the EPA are often directly from the manufacturer. Most of them are short term studies and there is no mandate to submit further research prior to re-registration. Many times when a chemical reaches re-registration, chemical companies simply withdraw the registration based on newer research. They are not compelled to turn over this research if they are cancelling the product. This nothing more than a giant loophole in the system; Imagine that a company discovers that a chemical with a 10 year registration causes a specific cancer and no link has been established in independent studies. After 10 years of use they simply cancel registration and ultimately are the only ones aware of its toxic effects. This stifles the progress of science on many levels. The number of household chemicals that can cause health problems is staggering and too wide ranging to list. The most reasonable policy to adopt is that if it has noticeable health effects, don’t use it. Some examples would be physical problems like reddening of the skin, burning in the eyes or esophagus, sneezing, strong vapor smells or other outward signs. None of these responses are good and signify a toxic reaction by the body.
Paraquat is a restricted-use chemical that is broadly used to control weeds and grasses. It is considered highly toxic and can cause heart, liver or kidney failure. Paraquat has been extensively studied in Parkinson’s. It is believed to induce oxidative stress through nitric oxide synthesis and is structurally similar to MPTP. Many of the studies using Paraquat induced Parkinson’s are questioned because it is directly introduced into brain cells rather than systemically. The mechanism of cell death is not understood in Paraquat exposure but it is fairly certain that it plays a direct role in some etiologies of the disease. Something important to note that nitric oxide serves as a type of catalyst for oxidative stress in the liver, so Paraquat may induce oxidative stress by altering this synthesis. It is also known to have a direct effect on Alpha synuclein production. Some epidemiological studies have also linked Paraquat to Parkinson’s by tracking incidence in commercial pesticide applicators.
Permethrin is an insecticide that is widely used on a variety of crops and livestock as well as in commercial and residential applications. As of 2006, the EPA was not assessing the common mechanism of toxicity citing it as not understood. It also classified it as a likely human carcinogen. Permethrin is a restricted use chemical yet it is found in many common household insect killers including flea and tick treatments for animals. In 2003 a grant from the U.S. Army to Virginia Tech found that even at low doses Permethrin showed increased dopamine uptake and alpha synuclein production. It caused symptoms of Parkinson’s but did not fully develop into the disease. Permethrin acts by disrupting the function of neurons in insects. It also has strong neurotoxic effects on both cats and dogs. Permethrin is metabolized in the liver and numerous studies have shown increased liver weights. Studies of course have not been clearly conducted in humans. What an amazing coincidence.
Rotenone is a general use pesticide made from organic matter. Rotenone is extracted from several different types of plants and is used for insects, flea and ticks and invasive fish populations. Rotenone is another highly toxic chemical that has undergone voluntary withdrawal due to its toxicity. Researchers have been able to reproduce Parkinson’s disease systemically (through ingestion) with Rotenone and with fair conclusion establish a direct link to Parkinson’s. In fact, a nearly identical pathway of the disease can be established with Rotenone. It was supposed to be officially off the shelves in 2011 according to the EPA, yet it can be readily purchased online. Of course there is no warning on the label that it may cause Parkinson’s. Once again the voluntary withdrawal of this product and the passage of time combined limit legal action. It also inhibits science by allowing further studies that have been completed to be withheld at the time of voluntary withdrawal. Rotenone is a classic example of this how this convoluted system works. In 1996, the EPA classified it as mildly toxic. Ten years later, it was suddenly cancelled voluntarily and withdrawn from the market. This was probably due to there being too many independent studies associating it with illnesses. Conveniently removing is from the market over a period 8 to 10 years isn’t really a solution to the problem. The products are still available and still have the potential to cause more serious health problems.
Trichloroethylene is an industrial solvent regularly used to clean metal parts. It is also used in many consumer cleaning products and is soluble in water. It is widely used and spills, soil leaching and toxic releases are not uncommon, and the effects linger for decades. The EPA now considers Trichloroethylene a likely human carcinogen. It is also know to produce neurological effects when inhaled along with reproductive effects and damage to the internal organs including the liver. Many studies have linked TCE to Parkinson’s disease in recent years. One study from the University of Kentucky stated that there could be a lag of up to 40 years from the time of exposure to the initial symptoms presenting. With the use of TCE being so widespread and necessary to manufacturing, it is likely that the EPA will continue to take little to no action and stall reassessment due to the enormous financial impact of restricting or removing this chemical regardless of its chronic health effects.
With the number of chemicals in use worldwide in today’s society, it is nearly impossible to assess the individual or combined health risks of even a portion of them. This chapter only touches on the possible toxic causes of neurological disorders. Independent studies on individual chemicals for specific ailments are frequently undertaken. There is a problem with this type of research in that many of these isolated compounds may not have specific health effects. What must be considered and studied are the potential interactions of these chemicals with other chemicals, environmental contaminants and even the interaction with chemicals in foods when ingested.
If for example if a carbamate is used on Asparagus or a nightshade plant and then ingested by a healthy individual could it result in a deficit? What if this one done more than 1000 times over 20 years, what would the effect be then? Both carbamates and these two plants are known Acetylcholine inhibitors. It is also known that an imbalance between Acetylcholine and Parkinson’s is present. Carbamates have been studied to balance Acetylcholine and dopamine in the brain but of course this would only take place when an individual already has symptoms. This kind of leaves the issue of what the effects are when one doesn’t have the condition off the table.
There are infinite possibilities of different types of exposure to toxins, as no one does exactly the same thing as another person. This makes it exceptionally difficult to trace the source of an illness, especially one with as many varied symptoms and as confusing as Parkinson’s. Perhaps it would be more prudent in the registration of chemicals to give individual chemicals a toxic load rating that includes byproducts of the chemical manufacture and a combined rating of the compounds contained. Simplifying this system in such a fashion would be more logical to assess combined possible toxic loads on the body. Researchers often use the phrase “cascading series of events” when discussing Parkinson’s. This does in a sense imply that there is more than one mechanism at work which in fact there is.
Another enormous problem with toxins is that on the whole, people have no idea what they’re exposed to on a daily basis. This makes it very difficult to isolate a cause when a person is afflicted. This is especially true when it is considered that exposure could occur years before the first symptoms. Many proponents suggest proper labeling as an answer which is reasonable to a degree but it would be impossible to label every possible aspect of a chemical. There is an abundance of this information available from many different sources. Unfortunately, most people mistakenly trust that products made available to them have been tested and are at least reasonably safe. This is the furthest thing from the truth and in fact only a small percentage of people are going to take the time to research a chemical before its use. Adding the fact that byproducts of production are often contained in products complicates matters even more, especially when byproducts are in nearly every type of product available and there is no requirement to list them on the label. It essentially leaves people in the dark about what they are being exposed to.
Protection of trade secrets is another matter that is an issue in toxic exposure. Chemical companies often have some of the most experienced chemists and scientists in the field. With the current knowledge of chemistry there is rarely any mystery to exactly what is contained in that product or formulation. It has evolved into specific manipulation of molecules to achieve the desired results because it is understood so well. Scientists and corporations carefully protect this information from competitors and in turn the public. This also may include any known adverse effects or toxicity that may be associated with it. This circumvents the EPA, FDA, USDA and many researchers from assessing the risks due to the fact that there is little knowledge of exactly which chemicals are present. This applies across many industries. A perfect example is the pet treats that are causing kidney failure. After five years of testing the FDA has no idea what is causing these illnesses and deaths. The FDA attempted to examine a production facility in China and was flatly declined entry. This directly inhibits research and the ability of the FDA to take proper action. Denying access to manufacturing facilities leads to the inference that something is not being disclosed. The only restriction that could be imposed would be on importation. This would be no different if it was regarding human consumption.
Pesticides are routinely sprayed on nearly all of our food products. In addition there are many chemicals that enter our food through packaging and processing. Some of these chemicals have known toxic effects and are still used. None of this information is given to the consumer directly and this is wrong. Genetically modified foods have become a huge political issue. Companies that make them claim they are 100 percent safe whereas opponents claim they are not. Unfortunately both are true in that particular context. The corporations claim that the foods are safe. There is no proof that GMO’s are harmful, which is correct. Altering the DNA of a plant likely will have no toxic effect on the human body. Even altering a plant to be resistant to pesticide will likely cause no harm when eaten. However, when a plant that is resistant to a pesticide is routinely sprayed with it, the plant then becomes toxic. It becomes more toxic when the application levels are doubled and other pesticides are added. There is absolutely no consideration in regards to human health shown by consistently spraying more chemicals on products of any type for consumption. The GMO opposition is growing but measures often fail because the most obvious problem with GMO’s is overlooked and understated. Many do not understand that the primary purpose of GMO foods is not to make bigger apples or sweeter cherries. It is to produce crops that can be sprayed with herbicides and pesticides for ease of growing and better profit. It is purely a product of the industrialized world.
In summary, exposure to chemicals in today’s world is a daily occurrence. It is nearly unavoidable if not impossible. Chemicals have a direct effect on the environment and often on human health. The true health effects of many chemicals are unknown due to the ease of the regulatory system. It is often only through extensive independent research that the effects of these toxins are understood. There is no viable reason that justifies not labeling a product with the chemicals it contains, including byproducts. Health effects on warning labels should probably be overstated and more clearly understandable to help prevent misuse. Trade secrets should not be allowed to be withheld from the EPA or FDA. In fact, there should be complete transparency from corporations. Voluntary withdrawal of a chemical should require turning over all scientific documents for complete review at the time of withdrawal. When a chemical is withdrawn it should be immediately removed form circulation, not over ten years. These are just a few simple changes should already be in place.
The understanding of Parkinson’s has grown along with research although the cause still remains elusive. Many of the problems noted 40 or 50 years ago have not been solved. There certainly needs to be some out of the box thinking on toxin research and how to determine exposure rates. Combinations of several chemicals or just the toxic load over time may be the missing link in treating the cause. Understanding the root causes of this disease will ultimately lead to a cure and science must remain focused on that.