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Exposure to environmental toxins may cause increased neurological disorders | USA news

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Leading doctors warn that the mystery behind the astronomical increase in neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s may be caused by exposure to environmental toxins that are ubiquitous but not fully understood.

At a conference on Sunday, the nation’s leading neurologists and neuroscientists will highlight recent research efforts to fill the scientific gap in our understanding of the role played by environmental toxins (air pollution, pesticides, microplastics, forever chemicals and more) in increasingly common diseases like dementia. and childhood developmental disorders.

People can encounter 80,000 or more toxic chemicals while working, playing, sleeping and learning – so many that it is nearly impossible to determine how they might interact or their cumulative effects on the nervous system and their individual effects on a person. for a lifetime.

Given the proliferation of plastics and chemical pollutants and America’s withdrawal from the regulatory approach, some contact with environmental toxins is inevitable, but the exposure is uneven.

In the US, communities of color, Indigenous people, and low-income families are much more likely to be exposed to numerous pollutants due to unsafe housing and proximity to water, manufacturing and agricultural jobs, roads and polluting industrial facilities, among other hazards.

Genetic makeup is likely to play a role in how susceptible people are to the pathological effects of different chemicals, but studies have shown higher rates of cancer and respiratory disease in environmentally burdened populations.

Little is known about its impact on brain and nervous system disorder, but there is a growing consensus that genetics and aging do not fully explain the sharp increase in a previously rare degenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). possibly in neighborhoods with army veterans and heavy industry.

Neurosurgeons, neurologists and their surgical colleagues, will highlight the research gap at the American Neurological Association (ANA) annual meeting in Chicago.

“Neurology is about 15 years behind cancer, so we need to raise the alarm about this and get more people to do research because the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] “It certainly doesn’t protect us,” said Frances Jensen, ANA president and head of the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Neurology.

Numerous well-known dangerous toxins, such as asbestos, glyphosate, and formaldehyde, continue to be widely used in agriculture, construction, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics in the United States, despite being banned elsewhere. Earlier this week, The Guardian reported on corporate efforts to impress the EPA and hide a possible link between the popular weed killer Paraquat and Parkinson’s.

Jensen added: “Like dark matter, there are so many unknowns… It will be a truly epic exploration using the most advanced science we have.”

Neurology is the branch of medicine that focuses on disorders of the nervous system – the brain, spinal cord, and sensory nerve elements such as the ears, eyes, and skin. Neurologists treat children with neurodevelopmental disorders such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, migraine, Parkinson’s, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s, as well as ADHD, autism and learning disabilities.

The brain is the most complex and important organ in the body and probably the most sensitive to environmental toxins, but it was largely inaccessible to researchers until sophisticated imaging, genetics and molecular techniques were developed over the past 20 years.

Going forward, research may help explain why people living in neighborhoods with high levels of air pollution have a higher risk of stroke, and may also help examine links between fetal exposure and neurodevelopmental disorders.

Rick Woychik, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, said: “It’s not just about pesticides. PFAS chemicals are ubiquitous in the environment, as are nanoplastics. And there’s trillions of dollars worth of demand for nanomaterials, but it’s really thought-provoking how little we know about their toxicology.”