Jobs involving the use of common solvents can put people at risk for developing symptoms of Parkinson''s disease earlier in life and more severe disease symptoms throughout its course, according to a study in the Sept. 12 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
A study of 990 Parkinson''s patients revealed that those exposed to hydrocarbon solvents, found in common petroleum-based products such as paints and glues, were an average of three years younger at first sign of disease symptoms.
Parkinson''s disease is a slowly progressive, neurodegenerative disease caused when a small group of brain cells die that control body movement.
Symptoms generally include tremor in arms and legs, rigid muscles, slowness of movements and impaired balance.
Italian researchers found the severity of disease symptoms was directly related to the amount of hydrocarbon exposure that was experienced.
The researchers identified nine occupations within the study group that accounted for more than 91 percent of the hydrocarbon solvent exposure.
The most common occupations of those exposed were petroleum, plastic and rubber workers.
Other occupations found to have frequent hydrocarbon exposure were painters, engine mechanics and lithographers.
"These findings raise serious questions about specific occupational risk," said study author Dr. Gianni Pezzoli, of the Parkinson Institute in Milan, Italy. "This study more than merits further investigation into job-related Parkinson''s risk factors."
The study was designed to find differences between new patients at a Parkinson''s clinic who had and had not experienced hydrocarbon exposure in their lives.
The research also found that those with hydrocarbon exposure were mostly male and less educated than those who were not exposed.
by Virginia Sutcliffe