Industrial chemicals may be linked to Parkinson’s disease

A cancer-causing chemical widely used to degrease aircraft components and heavy equipment may also be linked to Parkinson’s disease, according to a new research paper that recommends closer attention to areas long-term contaminated with the compound.

Trichlorethylene, or TCE, is a colorless liquid used to remove dirt from jet engines, strip paint, and remove stains from dry-cleaned shirts. Decades of widespread use in the US have contaminated thousands of TCE sites.

In an article published on Tuesday in Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, the authors suggest that this pollution may contribute to the global spread of Parkinson’s disease, a neurological disorder characterized by uncontrolled tremors and slow movements. While the authors were unable to prove a direct link, they cited a number of other studies that suggest that TCE may play a role in degenerative brain disease and called for further research on the subject.

“When Dr. Parkinson described this condition in 1817 in London, he reported six people with this disease, ”said the doctor. Ray Dorsey, professor of neurology at the University of Rochester and lead author. “Two hundred years later, the global burden of disease is estimated to be more than 6 million people worldwide. So how do you go from six to six million? Rates are rising at a much faster rate than can be explained by aging alone. It must be environmental factors. I think TCEs and air pollution are important contributors.”

Although prolonged or repeated exposure to TVE is known to cause kidney cancer, according to the National Cancer InstituteThe authors of the article argue that the association with Parkinson’s disease will significantly increase its risk, especially in contaminated sites that have been converted into housing estates.

“When a patient reports a possible infection to me, I google their location and almost always find an infected area,” Dorsey said.

The document is based on more than two dozen research papers documenting the apparent neurological effects associated with TVE exposure and highlights a number of cases of Parkinson’s disease. Citing the ubiquity of the chemical, the paper cites a pollution plume that lies under part of Newport Beach, considered one of the largest residential areas in California affected by chemical fumes from legacy pollution.

According to the article, TCE was first associated with Parkinson’s symptoms in 1969 in a 59-year-old man who had worked with the chemical for over 30 years. This was largely due to workplace exposure, including a woman who worked with the chemical while cleaning houses and factory workers who degreased and cleaned metal parts. A 2012 study of twins found that exposure at work or a hobby was associated with an approximately 500 percent increase in the likelihood of developing Parkinson’s disease.

TCE production in the US peaked in the 1970s, exceeding 600 million pounds a year. It was widely used at military bases and industrial sites, and disposed of at hazardous waste sites.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, today up to one-third of US drinking water supplies may contain TCEs. But the chemical also threatens indoor air quality because it can seep from the soil into homes through cracks in foundations, where it is then inhaled as fumes.

In Southern California, a region facing a housing shortage, redevelopment of land contaminated with TCEs and a host of other chemicals has raised alarm among community groups.

The Santa Susana Field Laboratory, a rocket engine test site in Ventura County’s Simi Hills, was once remote. Today, 700,000 people live within a 10-mile radius of the dormant site, where soil and groundwater are contaminated with over 300 pollutants, including TCEs.

Similarly, in Riverside County’s Jurupa Valley, development over the years has moved closer to the Stringfellow Acid Pit, a closed hazardous waste repository that processed TCEs.

“Research has always been focused on cancer. And we’ve always said that there are other comorbidities and diseases that show up along with it, but they don’t notice,” said Penny Newman, Jurupa Valley resident and founder of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice.

“The site itself was isolated in a box canyon above the community, and there wasn’t much development there,” Newman said. “But as the city grew along with the freeways, they began to look for any available real estate. And it’s only in the last few years that people have begun to think about how they can develop on the side of the site.

In Orange County’s Newport Beach, chemicals in shallow groundwater are left over from a former missile test site.

From 1957 to 1993 Ford Motor Co. ran a 98-acre aviation campus where tactical missile systems were developed.. After the site was demolished, the site underwent some environmental remediation and was subsequently redeveloped as housing. Some of these included multi-million dollar homes. However, some chemical pollution remained and migrated with groundwater to nearby areas.

Groundwater in the Newport Beach area is not used for drinking, and TCE vapor levels were not considered a public health threat at the time. However, in 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 9, issued an advisory on the dangers of inhaling TCE fumes. Shortly thereafter, California revised its health thresholds for TCE exposure.

Since 2018, consultants hired by Ford, led by the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Board, have conducted soil vapor monitoring in the area surrounding the former site.

“Ford believes that access to a healthy and clean environment is a basic human right, including for Newport Beach residents,” the company said in a prepared statement. “Since 1996, Ford has been actively working with the Santa Ana Regional Water Board to address the issue of volatile organic compounds in soil and groundwater. We have provided regular updates to the community and will continue to do so.”

To date, indoor air samples have been taken from more than 350 residential buildings and three commercial properties. Vapors of TCE and a related solvent, tetrachlorethylene or PCE, were detected above control levels in 129 homes. Air purifiers were offered to about 30 households that were reported to have experienced fumes.

Outside the houses, a network of 424 underground monitors collects vapor data at depth. In some cases, these probes have measured concentrations of TCEs greater than 100 times the limits for living in California.

V Bayridge Park and Belcourt Terrace communitiestwo communities with the highest concentrations, Ford is working on installing underground pipe systems designed to clean up underground vapors for about a year, which is expected to bring indoor TCE levels down to government standards, according to Jessica Lowe, a geotechnical engineer at Waterboard .

“This is one of the wealthiest areas in the United States,” said Dorsey, who grew up in Newport Beach. “If it happens in a resource rich area, think about what happens in a resource poor area.”

Environmentalists say exposure to TCEs can be avoided. New York and Minnesota banned its use, and earlier this year the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determined that TCEs posed “an unreasonable risk of harm to human health,” paving the way for possible regulation.

In the Jurupa Valley, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control continues to fight pollution from TVE that has spilled from a long-closed former hazardous waste landfill. From 1956 to 1972, about 34 million gallons of liquid industrial waste were dumped into the evaporation pools of the Stringfellow Acid Quarries in a canyon in the Jurup Mountains. The pollution disappeared when the floodwaters carried the pollutants away from the site and into the community below.

The state has spent millions of dollars to install network of wells extract and process plume of polluted waterR. Despite significant progress, monitoring in 2018 showed that the content of TCE vapors still exceeds state sanitary standards.

But after years of drought that has allowed more contaminated water to be cleaned up and removed, locals now worry that the pollution could spread with rain and snowmelt.

“It’s all about this soil,” Newman of Jurupa Valley said. “So if you activate it again and it becomes mobile through the water table, it will start to sink. [into the community] again.”