2016 April: Parkinsons Cluster in Victoria’s North West: Horsham, Northern Grampians


Parkinson’s disease cluster discovered in state’s north-west

Associate Professor David Finkelstein talks to 3AW about the link between the disease and pesticides used in the Victorian region for barley, chickpea and lentil farming.

Study finds Parkinsons cluster in regional Victoria

Tom Nightingale reported this story on Monday, April 11, 2016

MICHAEL BRISSENDON: New research has found a cluster of Parkinson’s disease cases in rural northwest Victoria, raising concerns of a possible link with pesticides used in farming.

Tom Nightingale reports.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: They knew the rule; now they’ve found the exception.

Numerous studies had found Parkinson’s disease was equally as prevalent in the city and the bush.

Then researchers looked at rates around Victoria’s Wimmera area.

ASHLEY BUSH: There is a cluster of higher incidence of Parkinson’s disease that would be expected for the average age of the population. And it’s about double what would be expected.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: Professor Ashley Bush was one the researchers.

He says pesticides used to produce chickpeas, beans and lentils could be responsible.

ASHLEY BUSH: Pesticides, various kinds of pesticides can cause the type of brain damage that leads to Parkinson’s disease.

That exposure would have occurred decades earlier, probably so it’s possible that things have changed indeed, so there’s quite a bit of investigation to go on to try to work this out.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: Associate Professor David Finkelstein is with Parkinson’s Victoria.

He says the findings from Monash University and the Florey Institute are the first in Australia.

DAVID FINKELSTEIN: Other rural farming communities, especially in the States, have done a lot of research and they’ve found that pesticides have been linked with an increased incidence of Parkinson’s.

If you give these pesticides to animals in the laboratory they get Parkinsonism.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: He wants Parkinson’s disease to be a research priority so it gets a short term boost in funding.

DAVID FINKELSTEIN: Parkinson’s slips through the cracks for funding. It doesn’t fit in the national health disability scheme because people get it generally after the age of 60, it’s a chronic disease, and it, so it slips through the cracks.

What we’re saying is if you put it, give it the appropriate attention it deserves, it will actually save the money for people because it will keep people in the workforce for longer.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: The report’s executive summary is being released today to coincide with World Parkinson’s Day.

The full study will be released later this year.

MICHAEL BRISSENDED: Tom Nightingale with that report.