By: Jack Phillips

Photo: The Epoch Times

A study found that a chemical widely used in dry cleaning and other applications has been connected to a risk of Parkinson’s disease and researchers are sounding the alarm.

Trichloroethylene, or TCE, is frequently used as solvent in consumer, military, and medical applications. For example, it is used in solvents for engine cleaning and paint removal, although its domestic usage has fallen in recent years.

In a paper published on March 14 in the Journal of Parkinson’s disease, an international team of researchers noted that the cause of the brain disorder is not exactly clear, although researchers have pointed to certain genetic mutations or head trauma in some individuals. But those causes do not account for most cases.

“Other, less visible factors must be at play,” they wrote in an abstract. “TCE is a simple, six-atom molecule that can decaffeinate coffee, degrease metal parts, and dry clean clothes. The colorless chemical was first linked to parkinsonism in 1969. Since then, four case studies involving eight individuals have linked occupational exposure to TCE to [Parkinson’s disease],” they wrote.

TCE, they wrote, may be associated with as much as a 500 percent increased risk for the disease. They noted that evidence linking TCE to Parkinson’s is “based on a handful of case studies” and that one discovered that occupational or hobby exposure to TCE was linked to the increased chances of developing the disease.

“TCE is associated with a 500 percent increased risk of Parkinson’s disease,” lead author Dr. Ray Dorsey, professor of neurology at the University of Rochester in New York, told Fox News this week about his finding, describing Parkinson’s as the “world’s fastest-growing brain disease.” He noted that the chemical reproduces symptoms of Parkinson’s in laboratory animals, and it appears to impair cellular mitochondria, which produce energy for cells.

In an interview with Medscape, Dorsey noted that while certain pesticides could be linked to Parkinson’s, that doesn’t account for the high level of prevalence of the disease among people who live in urban settings. He noted that TCE and other factors may be the reason for that phenomenon.

“Countless people have died over generations from cancer and other diseases linked to TCE, [and] Parkinson’s may be the latest,” Dorsey stated. “Banning these chemicals, containing contaminated sites, and protecting homes, schools, and buildings at risk may all create a world where Parkinson’s is increasingly rare, not common.”

Authors of the study estimate that some 10 million Americans worked with the chemical or other solvents on a regular basis. However, they noted that millions more people may have “unknowingly” encountered TCE “through outdoor air, contaminated groundwater, and indoor air pollution.”

The paper included testimony from former NBA player Bryan Grant, who said he developed symptoms of Parkinson’s at age 34 while he was still playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. Grant said he lived at Marine Camp Lejeune when he was a child while his father was stationed there. Grant said he swam, drank, and bathed in water near Camp Lejeune that had high TCE levels.

“I know firsthand how hard it is to live with PD,” Grant told Medcsape. “I’ve seen the toll it takes on families and communities.”

“So as I’ve learned from Dr. Dorsey about the research that links chemicals like TCE to PD, I feel it’s important because we can do something about it. There are things we can do to prevent future generations from getting the disease,” he added.


According to the Mayo Clinic, Parkinson’s—which starts slowly and progressively worsens—impacts the nervous system and other parts of the body. A number of sufferers say they often notice a small tremor in one hand before the tremors spread elsewhere.

“In the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, your face may show little or no expression. Your arms may not swing when you walk. Your speech may become soft or slurred. Parkinson’s disease symptoms worsen as your condition progresses over time,” says the website.

Other symptoms include speech changes, writing changes, impaired posture and balance, loss of automatic movements like blinking or swinging arms when walking, rigid muscles and stiffness, and slowed movement. And generally, younger people rarely experience the disease as it normally starts in middle or late life, with the risk increasing with age.


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