Used to decaffeinate coffee, degrease metal and dry clean clothes, trichlorethylene is the subject of a new study. An international team of researchers accuses it of being an invisible cause in the rapid growth of Parkinson’s disease.
The origin of Parkinson’s disease remains unclear. While some cases can be explained by genetic mutations or head trauma, these factors are not enough to prove the growth rates of the disease. More invisible causes must contribute to this, such as the massive use of chemicals all over the world. Among them, trichlorethylene (TCE) is a very widespread product – for about 100 years – which has already contaminated countless sites and presents health risks to people who are exposed to it in the course of their work or in their environment. .
An air and water contaminant
According to the EPA, the US agency that sets environmental standards for the United States, TCE has ” an unreasonable risk to human health “. It is a simple six-atom solvent, volatile and persistent in the environment. As it has unique properties, it has had many industrial, commercial, military and medical applications: cleaning electronics, degreasing engine parts, dry cleaning clothes (later replaced by perchlorethylene), etc. . ” Exposure is not limited to people who work with the chemicalwrite the authors of a published study in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease. TCE pollutes outdoor air, contaminates groundwater and contaminates indoor air. The molecule, like radon, evaporates from underlying soil and groundwater and enters homes, workplaces or schools, often undetected. »
The chemical has since been banned in the European Union and two US states. It is, however, still permitted for vapor degreasing and spot dry cleaning in the United States and for permitted industrial uses in the European Union.
The link between exposure to TCE and Parkinson’s disease has been established for fifty years. Animal research has shown that the product readily penetrates the brain and body tissues and causes selective loss of dopamine-producing nerve cells, a hallmark of Parkinson’s disease in humans.
An invisible and avoidable risk factor
The international researchers of the new study hypothesize that TCE contributes to the worldwide increase in Parkinson’s and that it is both an invisible and preventable cause. They profile seven people (including a former NBA basketball player, a Navy captain and a former US senator) who developed Parkinson’s disease after they were likely exposed to it through work or in the environment. Decades passed between this exposure and the appearance of symptoms of the disease, making it difficult to establish proof.
The authors propose a series of actions to counter the harmful effects of TCE in public health. They note that contaminated sites (thousands in the United States) can be made healthier and indoor air exposure can be mitigated by vapor remediation systems. More research is needed to better understand how this chemical contributes to Parkinson’s disease and other illnesses.