NYT & Emory: Rats, Parkinson's, Rotenone

Gary Greenberg Gary.Greenberg at Duke.Edu
Mon Nov 6 15:47:38 EST 2000

November 5, 2000, New York Times

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Pesticide Found to Produce Parkinson's Symptoms in Rats


EW ORLEANS, Nov. 4 — An organic pesticide widely used on home-grown
fruits and vegetables and for killing unwanted fish in the nation's
lakes and rivers produces all the classic symptoms of Parkinson's
disease in rats that receive steady amounts of the chemical in their
bloodstreams, scientists said today.

While it is much too soon to say that the pesticide, rotenone, causes or
contributes to Parkinson's disease in humans, the scientists said the
finding was the best evidence thus far that chemicals in the environment
may be factors in this devastating disease.

Their study, the first to implicate rotenone in Parkinson's disease, was
described here today at a workshop on the neurobiology of disease, held
in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience,
the nation's largest gathering of brain researchers. The workshop,
sponsored by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and
Stroke, involved work carried out by Dr. Timothy Greenamyre and
colleagues at Emory University in Atlanta. The results of the study will
be published in the December issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience.


But Dr. Trojanowski cautioned that the findings "may not represent what
anyone would experience in the real world." For one thing, the rats in
the study were exposed to the chemical through their jugular veins, so
it was not broken down or metabolized in the digestive tract. Still, Dr.
Trojanowski said, the results are "a major breakthrough" and "prompt us
to look at how a lifetime exposure" to a chemical or combination of
chemicals might actually lead to Parkinson's disease.

Rotenone is extracted from the dried roots, seeds and leaves of various
tropical plants, including the Jewel vine, derris and hoary pea. Like
many plants that produce what are in effect their own pesticides, these
plants apparently evolved to produce the compound as a way of warding
off insects and other pests.

Rotenone is found in 680 compounds marketed as organic garden pesticides
and flea powders, said Dr. Caroline Tanner, director of clinical
research at the Parkinson's Institute. It is often sold as a white
powder that is dusted onto roses, tomatoes, pears, apples and African
violets, and even on household pets. It kills fire ants. 

Because rotenone is naturally occurring, it is advertised as being safer
than synthetic pesticides, she said. In addition, unlike many artificial
pesticides, which linger in the environment, rotenone breaks down in
five to six days of spring sunlight or two to three days of summer

Rotenone is also widely used in liquid form by fishery managers to
destroy pest species. The chemical is added to lakes and reservoirs,
where it kills all the fish by inhibiting their ability to use oxygen.
Once it has degraded, the water is restocked with the desired fish


Gary N. Greenberg, MD MPH    Sysop / Moderator Occ-Env-Med-L MailList
gary.greenberg at duke.edu     Duke Occupat, Environ, Int & Fam Medicine
OEM-L Maillist Website:                      http://occhealthnews.com


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