Old MacDonald Had a Farm with Pesticides and Parkinson’s

Need another reason to go organic with your produce? There is strong new evidence that regular contact with pesticides raises your risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by more than two times. With more than 1.5 million Americans diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, there is an urgent need to determine some of the risk factors. Although previous research has been unable to establish a link with pesticides, this newer study looked at farmers and their spouses, the people with the most direct contact with pesticides, and found these pesticide-using farmers were 2.5 times more likely to develop Parkinson’s.

While the true cause of the debilitating brain disorder cannot yet be certain, the fact that farmers and their spouses who worked with certain pesticides developed Parkinson’s disease at nearly triple the average rate is obviously alarming. Moreover, farmers surrounded by insecticides were diagnosed with Parkinson’s at younger ages than Americans not in the agricultural business. However, the effects of the toxins were not always immediate. Some farmers didn’t exhibit signs of Parkinson’s disease for up to fifteen years after the exposure.

The two pesticides that the study believed to be most devastating are rotenone and paraquat. Rotenone is a substance commonly used to kill bugs and fish.  Though it is considered mildly poisonous to mammals, it has difficulty passing through skin. On the other hand, paraquat is decidedly more harmful to humans. Paraquat kills most of what it is sprayed on nearly instantly, making it optimal for ridding a crop of emerging weeds. While paraquat is banned in Europe, licensed American operators are still permitted to use it.

Since these pesticides are used on crops that people eat, the consumers should pay attention to this news. Just because the exposure level is less than that of a farmer, it doesn’t eliminate the risk. While more research will need to be conducted on the degenerative effects of insecticides, the study is an important reminder to educate yourself on where your food comes from, as well as how it is handled. Maybe it’s finally time to add the local organic farmer’s market to your weekly to-do list.


  • I guess we can add another one to the list. I’ve worked with rotenone and paraquat both. I’ve told people for years even though pesticides are diluted they’re still deadly. Pesticides don’t know when to stop killing.

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