Scientists have validated what the Parkinson’s community has long suspected: exposure to trichloroethylene (TCE) increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
A groundbreaking new study led by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco and published in JAMA Neurology found that Navy and Marine Corps veterans who were exposed to TCE-contaminated water at Camp Lejeune had a 70 percent higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease compared with veterans who had done their military training elsewhere.
Researchers evaluated the medical records of 85,000 Navy and Marine Corps veterans who trained at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina for at least three months between 1975 to 1985. In 2017, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs began seeing a significant uptick in veterans who were stationed at Camp Lejeune during that time who were seeking care for their Parkinson’s symptoms.
This finding is one of many reasons The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) maintains an active, strategic public policy and government relations presence to advocate for those who have been exposed to dangerous chemicals that are linked to PD, and to push for research and prevention strategies to keep our troops safe at home and abroad. An estimated 10 to 12 percent of all Parkinson’s patients served in the military, and the growing body of research points to harmful environmental triggers such as Agent Orange, TCE, and others as the potential cause of their disease. MJFF actively lobbies against the use of harmful chemicals like paraquat and TCE, as well as reducing or eliminating other Parkinson’s-linked environment risk factors our military servicemembers and all Americans may encounter.
“Military members and their loved ones who live on base sacrifice everything to serve this country; the least our government can do is ensure they aren’t poisoned in their own backyard,” said Ted Thompson, JD, MJFF’s senior vice president of public policy. “The Environmental Protection Agency needs to listen to science and ban TCE once and for all. And, given these findings, the Department of Defense now clearly has an obligation to devote at least $50 million to Parkinson’s research funding in FY 2024 and beyond so we can identify and work to prevent all Parkinson’s-related environmental risks facing those serving our country” adding that “the VA should also designate TCE exposure as a presumed connection to PD and offer the same benefits to veterans as they do for Agent Orange exposure.”
What is TCE?
Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a colorless liquid used in producing refrigerants and acts as a metal degreaser in industrial settings. It also has been used in making decaf coffee, dry cleaning, carpet cleaning, and as an inhaled anesthesia. According to Meredith Wadman at Science, TCE is “highly persistent in soil and groundwater” and is “detectable in many foods, in up to one-third of U.S. drinking water, and in breast milk, blood, and urine.”
Retired Navy officer Amy Lindberg was stationed in Camp Lejeune in the 1980s and believes TCE-contaminated groundwater is responsible for her Parkinson’s disease. In a 2022 webinar, she spoke candidly about her diagnosis and why she is committed to advocating for prevention protocols and a cure, “Parkinson’s is the fastest-growing neurological disease in the world and it's doubled since 1990. It's going to double again in the next generation, certainly by 2040, if we don't make changes now.”
Carlie Tanner, MD, PhD, professor of neurology at the Weill Institute for Neurosciences at UCSF was co-author of the Camp Lejeune study and said, “Scientific discovery such as this not only helps steer future Parkinson’s research on environmental risk factors of disease, it also brings much-needed attention to the obligations our policymakers have in ensuring laws, regulations and policies protect Americans impacted by Parkinson’s – especially those who serve our country.”
What can you do?
If you would like to add your voice to the thousands of Americans calling for an end to dangerous chemicals linked to Parkinson’s disease, sign up here to advocate for policies that protect our troops and their families and the millions of Americans at risk for Parkinson’s disease.
If you believe you or a family member were exposed to TCE, please reach out to your physician or other health care provider who can discuss your experience with you.
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