Some studies show that people who work or live in rural, agricultural areas are more likely to develop PD than people who live in urban areas. Rural people are more likely to work with herbicides or pesticides. A few pesticides, such as one called rotenone, can cause PD in mice. At present it is not known if this is so in humans.
Agent Orange is the name of a herbicide developed for the military, primarily for use in Vietnam. The purpose of Agent Orange was to deny the enemy cover and concealment by defoliating trees, shrubs, and plants. Agent Orange is a 50-50 mix of two chemicals, known as TCDD. TCDD was mixed with kerosene or diesel fuel and dispersed by aircraft. An estimated 19 million gallons of Agent Orange were used in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia during the war. Early concerns about Agent Orange were that it was contaminated with dioxin. Dioxins are found in nature, and are cousins of certain chemicals that may cause cancer. In laboratory tests on animals, dioxin was shown to cause a variety of diseases, but not PD. TCDD is not found in nature, but is man-made. Questions have been raised as to the role of Agent Orange in PD. People who served in the military during the Vietnam War are now in the age range where PD most often occurs. At present it's not known whether the Vietnam War veterans who served in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia and were exposed to Agent Orange are at increased risk of PD. Nor do we know how much Agent Orange individual veterans were exposed to during the war. A sailor on a ship carrying sealed drums of Agent Orange did not have the same exposure as an infantry man moving, living, and fighting in the countryside sprayed by Agent Orange.
As many as 1 in 7 soldiers, sailors, airmen and women who served in the Persian Gulf during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990-1991 have complained of a number of symptoms referred to as the Gulf War Syndrome. Symptoms include memory loss, balance difficulty, sleep disturbances, depression, exhaustion, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. Some physicians have concluded that Gulf War Syndrome doesn't exist—the symptoms the veterans complain of are related to a post-traumatic stress disorder. Other physicians have concluded there is a Gulf War Syndrome and that the symptoms were caused by a specific chemical, toxin, or virus the veterans encountered while serving in the Persian Gulf. If the symptoms are caused by contact with or exposure to a specific chemical, toxin, or virus, could such contact or exposure result in PD? In 1999 a study used a technique called Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy to examine, in life, the chemical composition of the brains of veterans who served in the Gulf War. The veterans who suffered from the Gulf War Syndrome had lower levels of a specific chemical involved in energy metabolism. The lower levels of this chemical may indicate the loss of brain cells in the region targeted by PD. Although this does not prove a relationship between the Gulf War Syndrome and PD, many of these veterans are being followed to see if such a relationship develops.
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