Epidemiological research and Parkinson's

I have been wondering to what extent (if any) environmental factors are involved in the onset of Parkinson's Disease? Does it tend to be more prevalent in people working in certain occupations (eg. steel making or petrochemicals) or in certain parts of the country or indeed different countries? Does it tend to target certain ethnic groups or favour city dwellers over those in rural areas?
The reason I ask is because my job in the engineering industry brought me into contact with chemical solvents and brazing fluxes. Could long term exposure to these be a factor? Has much research been carried out in this area and if so has any sort of pattern been identified or were the results inconclusive?

my husband work in the steel industry

I have not studied the figures but have been told, on this site, that teachers are the largest single occupation group followed by health workers. Speculation is that it could have something to do with long term exposure to low level infection.

I think it is down to permanent suppressed fury at government interference.....:rolling_eyes:

carbon monoxide
gut infections

so if you are a keen gardener and metal worker having a glass of milk and a sandwich in an underground carpark while worrying about the mortgage with a bad cold and a dodgy tummy who has just been for a run past the glue factory - then that explains it!

Interesting! I was a keen gardener many years ago and acquired a garden with many roses.
Being young,keen and careless I used to constantly spray fungicide all over the garden and myself no doubt.
The product had an Irish name and I remember my disappointment when it was removed from the market!
Perhaps I lived dangerously as I used Philiplug? extensively which contained asbestos fibres.I still have a container in my tool box--kept in case I have to sue someone in future!!

Many garden pesticides and fungicides have the instruction "avoid inhaling the spray" with no indication of what the consequences would be if you did. Any product that is known to be detrimental to health should be withdrawn immediately. But then cigarettes are still on sale aren't they?

errr.... cigarettes reduce your chances of getting pd. Awkward fact but true.

So what's it to be, Parkinson's or lung cancer?

i'd go with pd anytime over lung cancer, not to mention emphysema.
my grandfather, mother in law, her father and two brothers, and an uncle of mine were all killed by cigarettes.

my main point was that epidemiological correlations are easy to come by, the causal mechanics are somewhat harder. it is knowledge of the underlying mechanism that is where the effective treatments/prevention will come from.

Quite right Turnip. There are lies, damned lies and statistics. Whilst they are useful, statistics should be treated with caution as, with a little manipulative cherry picking, they can be made to prove anything.


Thanks for starting this thread on what I believe to be an important topic.

You may be interested in the the work of Willis and her team who have produced maps showing the prevalence of Parkinson's in each of the approximately 3000 counties in the US [1]. There are fascinating differences from region to region which, if we could understand, would take us closer to knowing the etiology of the disease.

I was unable to find something similar for the UK. So I produced my own map (for England) using government data. You can access for each NHS practice the number of prescriptions they have written for each drug in any month. It's not precise, but by associating some drugs, such as levodopa, with Parkinson's you can get a measure of the relative number of PwP in a practice compared with the national average. I calculated these values and plotted them on maps [2]. The next stage is to see what is causing the differences. It could be some real factor or it could be "noise".

The UK government has an open data initiative and are trying to make it easy to access data. See:

If anyone is keen to be involved in studying the epidemiology of Parkinson's, please contact me.


[1] Neuroepidemiology. 2010 April; 34(3): 143–151.
"Geographic and Ethnic Variation in Parkinson Disease: A Population-Based Study of US Medicare Beneficiaries"
Allison Wright Willis,a,* Bradley A. Evanoff,b Min Lian,b Susan R. Criswell,a and Brad A. Racettea

[2] http://www.parkinsonsmeasurement.org/Epidemiology/EnglandPrescription/prevalenceEngland1.htm