Researchers find link between herbicides, Parkinson’s

Study collected data from those living in Washington near agricultural areas



Researchers, with the help of WSU epidemiologist, examined Washington residents who are from agricultural areas. They found a link between herbicides used by farmers and those who live in farming communities.

KAYE GILL, Evergreen reporter

A WSU epidemiologist aided a research study that found a link between the use of some herbicides and higher death rates from Parkinson’s disease among those living in agricultural areas.

Ofer Amram, an assistant professor at the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, said the research team looked at where people died from Parkinson’s disease.

“We basically looked at where people died from Parkinson’s related diseases, looking at the location of their residence,” he said. “We looked at their exposure to pesticides.”

Amram said they looked at five different commonly used pesticides, including RoundUp. He said it is unclear how the active ingredient in these pesticides would lead to earlier death from Parkinson’s.

“What we determined is that those who live closer to agriculture areas where pesticides were applied, [those people] died earlier,” Amram said, “prematurely from Parkinson’s disease.”

According to the study Estimated Residential Exposure to Agricultural Chemicals and Premature Mortality by Parkinson’s Disease in Washington State, the active ingredient in these herbicides is glyphosate.

Glyphosate is a widely used herbicide used to kill weeds. It is a non-selective herbicide, which means it will kill most plants.

Amram said the study was led by Mariah Caballero, a student at Vassar College. He said she is from Washington state and wanted to conduct her research here.

The study looked at agricultural areas across Washington state. Amram said they have not observed any actual causation but rather a relationship between Parkinson’s disease and the use of herbicides containing glyphosate.

He said they don’t have any specific plans for the future to expand on the research.

“This type of research is tricky to do because you can’t apply the pesticide on people and see if they get sick or not,” Amram said. “We are hoping that somebody else that is interested will pick it up and do research.”