Gardeners should wear protective clothing when using pesticides, say scientists who have concluded in a new study that the chemicals can increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease.
Researchers at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland have discovered that the more pesticides gardeners are exposed to, the more likely they are to develop the degenerative brain disease.
“The results reinforce the need for amateur gardeners and farmers alike to wear protective equipment when spraying pesticides,” New Scientist magazine said on Wednesday.
Anthony Seaton and his team in Aberdeen interviewed 767 Parkinson’s sufferers and 1,989 healthy people about risk factors for the disease, including their use of pesticides.
They found that people with the illness were more likely to have used pesticides. Amateur gardeners were 9 percent more likely to suffer from the disease than non-pesticide users. Farmers were 43 percent more likely.
“It considerably strengthens the case for pesticides being relevant to occupational risk of Parkinson’s disease,” said Seaton.
The researchers also identified other risk factors for the illness, including being knocked unconscious. They said having a family history of the disease raised the risk by 350 percent.
Parkinson’s is a chronic, irreversible disease that affects 1 percent of people over the age of 65 worldwide. Actor Michael J Fox and boxing legend Mohammed Ali are sufferers.
The illness occurs when brain cells that produce a chemical called dopamine malfunction and die. Symptoms include tremors, stiffness, slow movement and poor coordination and balance.