New webinar to focus on TCE chemical and Parkinson’s disease

Experts say trichloroethylene may be an 'invisible cause' of disorder

Marisa Wexler, MS avatar

by Marisa Wexler, MS |

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At an upcoming free webinar, hosted by Synapticure, experts will discuss how the chemical trichloroethylene or TCE — a widely-used solvent now well known to have toxic side effects — may be a cause of Parkinson’s disease.

The webinar, “TCE: An Invisible Cause of Parkinson’s,” is taking place via Zoom tomorrow, May 24, at 2 p.m. EDT. Registration is available online.

The event will feature Ray Dorsey, MD, a professor of neurology at the University of Rochester, in New York, and director of the Center for Health + Technology. Dorsey is a co-author of the book, Ending Parkinson’s Disease: A Prescription for Action, published in 2020.

The book shares stories and resources for patients while outlining steps that, its authors say, could be taken at a global level to help reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease and improve care for people who develop the neurological disorder.

“Parkinson’s disease is, to a large extent, man-made and to the extent that it is a man-made disease, it can be a human-ended one,” Dorsey said in a public announcement of the webinar.

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Joining Dorsey for the webinar will be Jaime Hatcher-Martin, MD, PhD, Synapticure‘s movement disorders service line director. Synapticure is a U.S. company focused on providing personalized care to people with Parkinson’s and other neurological disorders. The company offers telemedicine (via phone or computer) appointments with specialists and care coordinators, as well as genetic testing, counseling, and other resources to provide patients individualized treatment.

Parkinson’s disease is characterized by the progressive death and dysfunction of cells in the brain that are responsible for making dopamine, a chemical that nerve cells use to communicate with each other and with other parts of the body. Reduced dopamine signaling ultimately drives most symptoms of Parkinson’s.

It’s still not known exactly what causes Parkinson’s to develop.  An individual’s genetics are thought to play a sizable role in influencing disease risk. But environmental factors, such as exposure to certain toxins and chemicals, also are believed to affect a person’s risk of Parkinson’s.

TCE is a powerful solvent, or a substance that can be used to dissolve other chemicals. It was first synthesized in the mid-1800s and entered commercial use in the 1920s. Throughout the 20th century, TCE was used in a wide range of applications, from cleaning military or industrial equipment to making refrigerants and adhesives. A related chemical called perchloroethylene (PCE), which can turn into TCE under some conditions and may have similar toxicity, also has been used in many of these applications.

Despite its utility as a solvent, TCE now is well established to have toxic effects. The chemical is a known carcinogen, or a substance that can cause cancer, and it can cause problems with developing fetuses if exposure occurs during pregnancy. As far back as the late 1960s, there have been reports suggesting that TCE exposure may increase the risk of Parkinson’s.

Parkinson’s disease is, to a large extent, man-made and to the extent that it is a man-made disease, it can be a human-ended one.

Just a few weeks ago, scientists published an analysis comparing Parkinson’s risk among U.S. military personnel who served at one of two bases — one that had TCE contamination in the water, and one that did not. The results showed that the rate of Parkinson’s was significantly higher among people who had served at the TCE-contaminated base.

In the European Union, TCE is banned outside of certain specific industrial uses. It’s also banned in two U.S. states — New York and Minnesota — but it’s not prohibited by the U.S. federal government.

According to scientists, worldwide exposure to this chemical has increased over recent decades. Earlier this year, scientists called for a ban on TCE, citing the health risks and potential link to Parkinson’s. One of Dorsey’s book co-authors, Bastiaan Bloem, MD, has warned of a coming Parkinson’s pandemic.