Parkinson’s is the world's fastest-growing neurological disorder. This chemical compound could be to blame

Yeah last I checked rises in various kinds of dementia and things like Parkinson’s have been tagged to our aging population. And the root causes have been found to be primarily genetic.

Rises are in lock step with age demographics and the proportion for each form/disease within the block. Like say in the total number of cases, the same percentage are parkinson’s, alzheimer’s etc.

Yet we seem to get a different supposed environmental suspect every 6 months.

I think it’s just boomers hitting the age where they’re suddenly very aware of these issues and dealing with them regularly.

That’s a very big population block, and as they age into certain concerns it tends to drive a huge amount of attention. Kind of like how financial media shifted from entirely about how to save and pay for your kid’s college, to how to save and pay for retirement over the last decade or so.

If you look at certain kinds of media with the right eye you’ll notice a lot of that. Discussion of dental implants as better than dentures. Lots of talk about knee, hip and shoulder replacement. Supermarket tabloids shifting from Natalie Woods and Dick Van Dyke to Burt Reynolds and JFK Junior.


That’s why I always stick to the big three; alcohol, vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. You can buy them anywhere for pennies, are just as easy to use as commercial products and are more effective than 90% of other products.


Parkinson’s is not a specific condition and presents with different symptoms - i.e.a range of things can get bracketed as Parkinson’s. As medics become more aware of this it may perhaps have led to more diagnoses.


Carbon tetrachloride was banned decades ago for health reasons. I wonder why it was thought that trychloroethylene is much safer.


My first employment’s r&d department had about a dozen or so “sparkies” (electronics/electrical techs, to you :slightly_smiling_face: ) who used to have almost constant exposure to TCE (we just called it “trich”) and MEK (methyl ethyl ketone). Exposure would happen at their work stations. While there, more than half would smoke constantly. More than half came down with life threatening health issues with about a third of the dozen or so succumbing to their varied illnesses. Chemicals. :confounded:


I appreciate the empathy/sympathy, but there’s nothing to be sorry about. Such is life; so it goes. There is most likely some genetic predisposition, as both my maternal grandparents died from Alzheimer’s (one a happy death and one a depressing death) and my paternal grandmother had either Parkinson’s or Parkinsonism (no one in the family remembers which one). My mother died of cancer a few years ago so there is no telling if she would have developed any brain disorders and my father has long had mental health issues, including addictions and bipolar disorder. So I was a handed a pair of loaded dice at birth. Nothing to be mad about, really, as I’ve had a good run so far and with diet & exercise & medication I figure I can last at least another 15 to 20 years.


Because it’s really not that unusual for very similar-seeming molecules to have extremely different effects on the body? Even if it works in this case, it’s not a good rule of thumb.

Ethanol will give you a buzz; methanol or isopropanol will cause serious, often permanent damage and/or kill you. Citalopram is an SSRI, usually given as a racemic mixture, but there’s some evidence that the enantiomers have opposite effects on the same receptors, with one reducing the effect of the other. Cis fatty acids are from normal unsaturated fats, but trans fatty acids, made by changing the orientation of atoms around a single bond, are quite bad for you.


Carbon tetrachloride also depletes the ozone layer, and its use and manufacture is restricted by the Montreal Protocol.

This article suggests the manufacturers who previously relied upon TCA for its degreasing properties should use Methylene Chloride, Perchloroethylene, or Trichloroethylene

Judging by the OSHA Permissible Exposure Limits listed in the paper, all three substitutes are pretty nasty. with Perc and TCE having permissible exposure limits significantly below TCA, and MeCl.


According to the abstract linked in that Grauniad article, the US FDA banned TCE as an anesthetic(!) and coffee-decaffeinating solvent(!) in 1977. If it takes 40 years for exposure to lead to Parkinson’s, then the current cohort of new Parkinson’s patients may have drunk TCE in their coffee every morning, but moving forward, less and less of the population will have been exposed to it. On the face of it, to the extent that TCE is a cause of Parkinson’s disease, the rate should be decreasing.

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Ethanol will kill too. It just takes a larger dose. But I agree that there can be quite significant differences among members of a chemical family (for example, mustard gas used in WWI will kill, but chlorambucil derived therefrom is one of the first anticancer drugs, so is not immediately deadly – our cat was on it for lymphoma and gave us an extra two years of good health before she died). But sometimes (and maybe I am Monday morning quarterbacking) the differences are insignificant.

This is what I was getting at. Once carbon tetrachloride was banned it seems to me that anything in the immediately chemical family would be suspect too – even if it was used as an anaesthetic or coffee-decaffeinating solvent.

I’m not a conspiracy enthusiast, but I distrust small organic molecules with chlorine in them. For example, I’m a little suspicious of sucralose because the molecule has three chlorine atoms.


Chlorine Trifluoride is especially nasty. From Derek Lowe’s outstanding blog post “Sand won’t save you this time”:
" I’ll let the late John Clark describe the stuff, since he had first-hand experience in attempts to use it as rocket fuel. From his classic book Ignition! we have:
”It is, of course, extremely toxic, but that’s the least of the problem. It is hypergolic with every known fuel, and so rapidly hypergolic that no ignition delay has ever been measured. It is also hypergolic with such things as cloth, wood, and test engineers, not to mention asbestos, sand, and water-with which it reacts explosively. It can be kept in some of the ordinary structural metals-steel, copper, aluminum, etc.-because of the formation of a thin film of insoluble metal fluoride which protects the bulk of the metal, just as the invisible coat of oxide on aluminum keeps it from burning up in the atmosphere. If, however, this coat is melted or scrubbed off, and has no chance to reform, the operator is confronted with the problem of coping with a metal-fluorine fire. For dealing with this situation, I have always recommended a good pair of running shoes.”"


“Hypergolic.” Todays learn-a-new-word word!


I was thinking the same thing when I read about this the other day.
My mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s a little over a year ago. She’s going to be 79 this year.
There’s no way for me to prove it, obviously, but I’m fairly certain that her dad - my maternal grandfather - had late onset Parkinson’s, but it was not diagnosed at the time.
The reason I say that is because she started to exhibit some of his exact physical problems that he had close to the end of his life. He lived to be 89. Her symptoms seemed worse to me than his and she is being treated with drugs that have made a dramatic change including almost all of the outwardly physical problems going away. BUT, the drugs are causing some other issues, most noticeably with her heart in so far as she is going to have a pacemaker put in later this year.
She’s always been very petite and healthy her whole life, though she’s not really ever been one to exercise much if at all so the older she gets, the more semi-frail she seems to be.
My grandfather on the other hand was very active his whole life and could have likely kicked the shit out of much younger men well into his 70’s. Probably helped that he kicked a two pack a day Camel habit in the late 60’s…
I don’t know how much her physicality plays into the way that this disease has affected her, but I would think it would to a certain extent.
The genetic aspect of it scares me a little as well the older I get.


That sounds particularly awful. Probably not good as an anesthetic either.

Well, if you inhale it, you won’t be feeling anything after a bit, but it’ll be kind of irreversible.


But chlorine in a hypervalent molecule like ClF3 is wildly different to organic chlorine; it’s like comparing water to stellar plasma on the grounds that both contain hydrogen.

It does seem that all chloroalkanes are bad for you to varying extents, but it’s not to do with the violent redox chemistry of elemental chlorine (which is also bad for you, but in a much more immediate and less subtle way). Loosely speaking, chloroalkanes are similar enough to “natural” molecules that our biochemical machinery will interact with them, but alien enough that those interactions will break the machinery in question. Also, chloroalkanes are good at accumulating in fatty tissue (or fatty parts of cells I guess), so even low levels of exposure can eventually lead to high concentrations in the wrong places.

Some molecules are fine because our bodies know what to do with them; some don’t interact with our biology at all; others are clearly hazardous (e.g. they melt your face off). But organic molecules containing halogens (or metals other than iron, for similar reasons) fall into a grey area where, though they may not kill you on the spot, it is wise to suspect that they’re fucking you up in subtle ways. Still, if there’s no evidence that decades of exposure to a particular molecule harms people, then it can’t be that dangerous.

PS for the record, “fluoride” in tap water is inorganic fluorine, F-, so there’s no reason to get weird about that.



Came for the story; stayed for the turns of phrase.


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