Parkinson's and the environment:
The unknown risk factor

A contribution by Jürgen Zender


The recognition of Parkinson's syndrome caused by pesticides as an occupational disease represents a significant advance in the understanding and treatment of this neurodegenerative disease. This development is not only relevant for farmers, but also has far-reaching significance for all people who suffer from Parkinson's disease or have one carry an increased risk of the disease. It signals an increasing recognition of environmental factors, particularly exposure to certain chemicals, as possible triggers for Parkinson's.

Pesticides and their role in Parkinson's:
Pesticides are chemical substances used in agriculture to control pests and pathogens. Some of these chemicals are neurotoxic and, with long-term or high levels of exposure, can increase the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's. They have a harmful effect on the nervous system by disrupting the function of neurons, which can lead to the characteristic symptoms of Parkinson's. Studies have shown that people who work in agriculture or live in areas where pesticides are used extensively are at increased risk of developing Parkinson's disease.

Other environmental toxins suspected:
In addition to pesticides, other environmental toxins are also suspected of triggering Parkinson's or increasing the risk of the disease. These include heavy metals such as lead and manganese, solvents such as trichlorethylene (TCE), used in industry and as degreasing agents, and certain polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which have historically been used in electrical equipment and construction materials. These substances can have neurotoxic effects similar to pesticides and increase the risk of Parkinson's disease.

Protective measures:
Although it can be difficult to fully protect yourself from exposure to pesticides and other environmental toxins, there are some steps you can take to minimize the risk:
– Avoiding known sources of danger: Avoid using pesticides in your own garden and, if possible, choose organically grown food.
– Personal protective equipment: When occupationally exposed to pesticides or other chemicals, appropriate protective equipment should always be worn, such as gloves, goggles and respirators.
– Gathering information: Find out about the chemicals you may come into contact with and their potential risks.
– Reduce household pollution: Use natural cleaning products and avoid using harmful chemicals in your home.

Recognizing certain forms of Parkinson's disease as an occupational disease due to exposure to pesticides and other chemicals is an important step in raising awareness of these risk factors. It offers those affected the opportunity to receive support and compensation and highlights the importance of preventive measures. It also promotes research and public awareness of the role of environmental factors in the development of Parkinson's disease, which may ultimately lead to better prevention strategies and treatment options.


Aspect Description
Pesticides as triggers Pesticides are chemical substances used in agriculture that can be neurotoxic and increase the risk of Parkinson's disease.
Other environmental toxins Heavy metals, solvents and PCBs are also suspected of having neurotoxic effects and increasing the risk of Parkinson's disease.
precautions Avoiding exposure, wearing personal protective equipment, obtaining information about chemicals, and reducing exposure in the home.
Importance of recognition Raising awareness of environmental risks, enabling those affected to receive support and compensation, and promoting research.

Jürgen Zender, Munich in March 2024

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