Chemicals Linked to Development of Parkinson’s Disease, Says Dutch Neurologist


According to Parkinson’s News Today, Dutch neurologist Bastiaan Bloem, MD, believes that the development of Parkinson’s disease can be attributed to chemical exposure.

About Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive central nervous system disorder that occurs when dopamine-producing brain neurons die. Symptoms include muscle stiffness and rigidity, speech changes (such as stuttering or slurring), dementia, impaired posture, tremors and shaking, and loss of motor skills.

Patients with Parkinson’s disease will go through five stages:

  • Mild symptoms, such as light tremors or shaking on one side of the body
  • More noticeable symptoms, including stiffness and tremors on both sides of the body
  • Loss of balance, slow movement (mid-stage progression)
  • Symptoms become too strong for patients to live independently
  • Severe symptoms, may include hallucinations, patients cannot stand or walk

Currently, researchers are not entirely sure why people develop Parkinson’s disease. However, hypotheses include genetics, excess proteins in brain neurons, and environmental factors. In Bloem’s case, he firmly believes that environmental causes will lead to a growth in Parkinson’s disease over the coming years.

Bloem’s Thoughts

Before unpacking Bloem’s thoughts, it is necessary to say that these are his beliefs specifically. While Patient Worthy aims to bring the most comprehensive news, research, and ideas to our community, we also want you to be aware that Bloem’s assertions may or may not be accurate. However, we are always looking to introduce new perspectives and ideas.

So as you read Bloem’s ideas on Parkinson’s disease, please recognize that you may agree or disagree with his findings.

Bloem’s Background

Bastiaan Bloem has published over 700 papers on Parkinson’s disease. Recently, he also co-authored Ending Parkinson’s disease: A Prescription for Action with neurologists Ray Dorsey, MD, and Michael S. Okun, MD, as well as neuroscientist and The Michael J. Fox Foundation CEO Todd Sherer. The book advocates for improved care and treatment options for patients with Parkinson’s.

He believes that the future of healthcare is centered around more personalized, innovative, and focused solutions. Alongside Marten Munneke, Bloem created ParkinsonNet. The service aims to provide improved services and therapies for patients with Parkinson’s disease, as well as improve education. These include e-learning opportunities, training, and case studies. Doctors can speak to other providers across the globe, gaining increased help from other experts.

Altogether, Bloem and Munneke’s ParkinsonNet have reduced the costs of Parkinson’s disease care by $439 per patient.

Chemical Causes

According to Bloom, more and more neurological conditions are responding to treatment. As a result, patients, young and old, are able to experience more health stability. However, he states that Parkinson’s is the fastest growing neurological condition. He attributes this growth to increased exposure to herbicides and other chemicals, many of which are used in the agricultural sphere.

In particular, Bloem believes that the following chemicals are causes of Parkinson’s:

  • Paraquat, a toxic herbicide used to kill weeds. According to MedLine Plus, researchers found paraquat to be extremely detrimental to workers who touched it. Symptoms of paraquat exposure include coma, breathing difficulties, lung failure, and infection.
  • Trichloroethylene, a synthetic solvent that is often used as a degreaser. It can be used to create toxic gases. It can cause organ failure and has a detrimental effect on brain function. Despite being listed as harmful to individuals, high levels of trichloroethylene can still be found in soil and water. Read more here.

He notes that those in the agricultural sector are more at risk:

“These chemicals were introduced worldwide after World War II, and many are still used today on our fields…if you feed a mouse paraquat…it will kill the dopamine-producing cells in the brain. These chemicals are tremendously toxic to the brain and have even been detected in milk, in supermarkets.”

Parkinson’s disease and COVID-19

Many people in the disease community have wondered: how will COVID-19 impact my treatment and condition? In this case, Bloem notes that patients with Parkinson’s disease are not any more likely to contract COVID-19 than anyone else. However, he does believe that patients who get COVID-19 are more likely to experience severe symptoms. Parkinson’s symptoms can become less severe with exercise and physical activity, or more severe due to stress. In a co-authored article, Bloem explains that:

“Non-motor issues such as insomnia or constipation may also worsen due to a lack of physical activity. Promoting home-based and adequately dosed exercises, such as cycling on a stationary bicycle, is therefore more important than ever before.”

However, he hopes that this pandemic shows people that more research needs to be done on Parkinson’s disease, and that more data needs to be discovered on the impact of these situations on patients. Read the full article in Journal of Parkinson’s Disease.

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

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