A chemical widely used in dry cleaning has been linked to an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease, scientists warn in a new study.
The chemical trichlorethylene (TCE) is a widely used solvent in a number of industries and for consumer, military and medical uses, including paint stripping, cleaning engines and anesthetizing patients, said researchers, including those from Rochester Medical Center in the USA.
While household use has declined since the 1970s, TCE is still used for spot dry cleaning and metal degreasing.
Previous studies have shown that TCE could be linked to Parkinson’s disease, and previous research in rodents has also shown that the chemical can enter the brain in high doses and damage mitochondria in cells.
Animal studies also suggest that TCE causes a selective loss of dopamine-producing neurons – a hallmark of Parkinson’s in humans.
A small study has also shown that occupational or hobby exposure to the solvent is associated with a 500 percent increased risk of developing the neurological condition.
In the new study, published Tuesday in the Journal of Parkinson’s Diseasesaid scientists, “Millions more unknowingly encounter the chemical through outdoor air, contaminated groundwater and indoor air pollution.”
They warned that TCE can contaminate soil and groundwater and lead to underground flows or plumes that can stretch great distances and migrate over time.
The chemical can easily evaporate and enter people’s homes, schools and workplaces, often undetected, with fume infiltration likely exposing millions to toxic indoor air near former dry-cleaning, military and industrial sites.
In the study, scientists evaluated seven people for whom TCE may have contributed to their Parkinson’s disease.
While the evidence analyzed in these individuals may be circumstantial, the researchers said their stories highlight the risks posed by the chemical.
Among the case studies reviewed is that of professional basketball player Brian Grant, who played in the NBA for 12 years and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at the age of 36.
Reaercher also reviewed data from Amy Lindberg, who may have been exposed to drinking water contaminated with the chemical at Camp Lejeune as a young Navy captain and was diagnosed with the disease 30 years later.
For over a century, “TCE has threatened workers, polluted the air we breathe—outdoors and indoors—and contaminates the water we drink. Global usage is increasing, not decreasing,” scientists said.
They call for contaminated sites to be successfully remediated and indoor air pollution mitigated by vapor remediation systems, and for more studies to be conducted to better understand how TCE is linked to Parkinson’s and other diseases.