An increased prevalence of Parkinson’s disease in north-west Victoria has led to speculation pesticides used in pulse production could be a factor, The Guardian reports.
A study by Monash University and the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health has found rural areas where chickpeas, broad beans, lentils, vetches and barley are farmed have higher rates of Parkinson’s disease.
“This new report – focusing on one possible cause – suggests further research is needed to explore the potential link between the use of pesticides used in farming of pulses and an increased risk of Parkinson’s,” Emma Collin, the chief executive of Parkinson’s Victoria, said in a statement.
Researchers have found four neighbouring local government areas in north-west Victoria – Buloke, Horsham, Northern Grampians and Yarriambiack have higher rates of Parkinson’s than average.
The study suggests recorded cases of Parkinson’s, based on medication use, are 78% higher than average in Buloke, 76% higher in Horsham, 57% higher in Northern Grampians and 34% higher in Yarriambiack.
The four areas all have increased farming production of pulses including chickpeas, broad beans, lentils and vetches – as well as barley.
While the prevalence is higher, the number of people with the disease was still less than 1% of the overall population.
The research did not investigate pesticides directly, but it has been known for decades that high doses of some pesticides can cause Parkinson’s disease in laboratory conditions.
Overseas studies have identified risk factors for Parkinson’s include living in rural areas and exposure to herbicides, pesticides and bore water.
Parkinson’s is a chronic and progressive neurological condition that affects the nervous system and alters co-ordination and movement.
The study’s findings are expected to be published in full later this year.