Until recently, there was only hearsay evidence that the north-west Mallee region and nearby NSW had a significantly higher rate of Parkinson’s disease than most other areas of Australia.
Dr Senior went hunting for figures, across an area of 65,000 square kilometres, to establish how many people suffering from Parkinson’s or other movement disorders had consulted their local GPs within the preceding 65 working days.
consultations. Based on the frequency of visits, Lower Murray Medicare Local estimates that there are at least 400 Parkinson’s patients in the region, plus individuals with other, rare movement disorders like motor neuron disease, Huntington’s Disease, progressive supranuclear palsy, Friedrich’s Ataxia and spinocerebellar ataxias.
Parkinson’s disease had not been formally assessed, but was likely due to the high level of pesticide use in the district – particularly rotenone which was banned last decade, and the herbicide paraquat (Sprayseed), which is still widely used.
Rotenone, or derris dust, was widely used as an organic insecticide until Scandinavian research in the early 2000s implicated it as a cause of Parkinson’s disease.