An earlier age at onset of Parkinson's disease (PD) has been reported to be associated with occupational exposures to manganese and hydrocarbon solvents suggesting that exposure to neurotoxic chemicals may hasten the progression of idiopathic PD. In this study the role of occupational exposure to metals and pesticides in the progression of idiopathic PD was assessed by looking at age at disease onset. The effects of heritable genetic risk factors, which may also influence age at onset, was minimized by including only sporadic cases of PD with no family history of the disease (n=58). Independent samples Student t-test revealed that subjects with occupational exposure to metals and/or pesticides (n=36) were significantly (p=0.013) younger than unexposed controls (n=22). These subjects were then divided into three groups [high (n=18), low (n=18), and unexposed (n=22)] to ascertain if duration of exposure further influenced age at onset of PD. One-way ANOVA revealed that subjects in the high exposure group were significantly (p=0.0121) younger (mean age: 50.33 years) than unexposed subjects (mean age: 60.45 years). Subjects were also stratified by exposure type (metals vs. pesticides). These results suggest that chronic exposure to metals and pesticides is associated with a younger age at onset of PD among patients with no family history of the disease and that duration of exposure is a factor in the magnitude of this effect.
Keywords: Parkinson's disease; age; metals; occupational exposure; onset; pesticides.