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New research shows welders are at a risk of developing Parkinson's disease and significantly earlier than the general population. As we know, genetics related cause is seen in a small number of patients. More than 80 % of the patients lack any family history of this disease. Researchers found out that patients who were professional welders developed signs of PD an average of 15 years earlier than other patinets.

One possible explanation is that welding fumes contain high levels of manganese, a mineral known to cause manganism (a disease that resembles PD) in miners who inhale large amounts of the mineral.

 



Manganism is a chronic disorder of the central nervous system. The symptoms of manganism are similar to Parkinson's disease symptoms, and may include weakness, slow and clumsy movements, difficulty breathing, and loss of coordination.

Manganism is caused by exposure to high levels of manganese. Miners, welders, and workers in some industries such as agriculture and steel production are at risk for manganism.

Manganese is contained in pesticides and fertilizers and may be released into the air and groundwater. If you work in or live near a factory where manganese metal is used or produced, you should be concerned about overexposure to manganese through the air or water. Welders using manganese welding rods are at a higher level of risk of manganism.

If you suffer from manganism caused by inhalation of manganese, you may be able to receive compensation for your injuries. Click here for a free legal consultation with an attorney near you.

Chronic exposure to high levels of manganese primarily results in problems with the central nervous system. These effects are termed manganism. The symptoms of manganism resemble Parkinson's Disease symptoms.

Manganism occurs when too much manganese injures the part of the brain that controls body movements. This exposure occurs primarily through inhalation. Although some of the symptoms of manganism can be treated with drugs and therapy, the damage that occurs to the brain is permanent.

Symptoms of managanism may include: Muscle stiffness and soreness, Fatigue and weakness, Speech disturbances, Loss of coordination, Abnormal walk, Tremors, Leg cramps or weakness, Fixed facial expression, Impotence, Difficulty breathing, Difficulty swallowing, Slow and clumsy movements, Stooped posture, Mental and emotional disturbances

Men exposed to high levels may not be able to father children. Other chronic effects from inhaling high amounts of manganese include an increased incidence of cough and bronchitis and susceptibility to infectious lung disease.

Workers usually do not develop symptoms of manganism unless they have been exposed for many months or years. However, there are reports that patients have developed symptoms several years after exposure to manganese had ceased. Manganism is a permanently disabling disease for which there is no cure.

Who's at Risk for Manganism?

If you work with manganese ore in a mine or factory or live near such a facility, you could be at risk for manganism.

Welders are also among those likely to be exposed to high levels of manganese.

Manganese is also found in pesticides and fertilizers, used in the production of batteries, and is an ingredient in some ceramics. Several tests are available for measuring manganese in blood, urine, hair, or feces. However, there are some problems with these tests: manganese is a normal part of the body, so some manganese is always found; and excess manganese is usually removed from the body within a few days, making it difficult to measure exposure.

Miners

Rocks containing high levels of manganese compounds are mined through both open pit and underground mining. The ore is separated from rocks and crushed before shipment. After shipment, manganese ores are ground and bagged for further industrial uses, such as being mixed with iron to produce steel. The grinding process has also been responsible for cases of manganese poisoning. If dropped, manganese metal dust becomes airborne.

Factory Workers and the Surrounding Community

According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), "People who work in factories where manganese metal is produced from manganese ore or where manganese compounds are used to make steel or other products are most likely to be exposed, through inhalation, to higher than normal levels of manganese."

If you live near such a factory, you might also be exposed to higher levels of manganese dust in the outside air.

Welders

There are almost half a million full-time welders in the U.S. Manganese is an essential element in the production of steel products and steel welding electrodes and is present in fume that is generated during welding of these materials.

Washington University School of Medicine researchers have concluded that welding might trigger early onset of Parkinson's disease. A research team found that some professional welders developed signs of the disease an average of 15 years earlier than the general population. (Details on the study is featured in the January 2001 issue of Neurology.)

Air and Groundwater

Manganese can be found in groundwater as a result of its use in the production of batteries and steel, and because it is contained in pesticides and fertilizers. If manganese compounds from a factory or a waste site get into your water, you could be exposed.

Because manganese is released into air when fossil fuels are burned, you might be exposed to higher levels if you live near a coal or oil-burning factory, or close to a major highway.

Pesticides

Many pesticides contain manganese, which puts agricultural workers at risk. The use of manganesed-based pesticides is widespread, in both industrialized and developing countries.

Anemia

Iron deficiency anemia may also make workers more susceptible to manganism.

 

Researchers Link Welding and Parkinson's Disease

By Cat Lazaroff

ST. LOUIS, Missouri, January 23, 2001 (ENS) - Scientists have identified the first clue that welding might trigger the early onset of Parkinson's disease. A research team found that 15 professional welders developed typical clinical and neurological signs of the disease an average of 15 years earlier than the general population.

"This research doesn't prove that welding causes Parkinson's disease," explained Brad Racette, MD, an assistant professor of neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. "But it's suspicious that the majority of these patients had a much younger age of onset. Our theory is that we have identified a group of people who probably would have developed the disease eventually, but something in the welding environment caused them to develop symptoms earlier."

Welding - already a hazardous profession - has been newly linked to early onset of Parkinson's disease

Parkinson's disease is a progressive movement disorder that affects more than one million Americans. It is characterized by slowness of

movement and tremors that

affect one side more than the

other.

 

Although genetics can account for

some cases, 80 percent of

Parkinson's disease patients lack a family history of the disease.

 

Scientists have hypothesized that environmental factors are largely responsible,

but no such factors have yet been identified.

 

One clue is that manganese miners are susceptible to a condition called

manganism when they inhale large amounts of the mineral manganese. The

disease is classified as a Parkinson syndrome because it bears a resemblance to

Parkinson's disease. But both the symptoms and brain pathology are significantly

different.

 

Welding fumes also contain high levels of manganese. But when a young welder

walked into Racette's office and said he was suffering from manganism, Racette

knew something was fishy.

 

"Manganism is a very different disease. To me, this patient clearly looked as if he

had Parkinson's disease," Racette said.

 

Welders who are genetically

predisposed to Parkinson's

disease could show symptoms

earlier because of their

profession (Photo courtesy

Trainum Safety Solutions)

 

He soon discovered a popular

belief that welding may lead to

Parkinson's disease. Material

data safety sheets even list the

disease as a possible hazard

of welding.

 

But there is little scientific

evidence to back up the idea.

Racette and colleagues

therefore set out to determine whether welding is in fact an environmental

contributor to Parkinson's disease.

 

They identified 15 professional welders among patients in the school's Movement

Disorders Center. Then they compared the welders' medical history and clinical

symptoms with those of control Parkinson's disease patients.

 

The researchers found no clinical differences between the welders and typical

Parkinson's disease patients. The two groups had the same severity and frequency

of symptoms and responded similarly to levodopa, a drug used to treat

Parkinson's disease.

 

The only statistically significant difference was average age of onset: 45 for the

welders, which is 15 years younger than for the control group.

 

Racette and his colleagues also imaged the brains of two of the welding patients

and 13 control patients. People with Parkinson's disease typically have lower levels

of a neurotransmitter called dopamine in certain regions of their brain.

 

Using a technique called fluorodopa positron emission tomography (FDOPA PET),

the researchers determined how much dopamine the brain could take up. With

that information, they assessed the extent of Parkinson like deterioration.

 

The FDOPA PET scans revealed no significant difference between the welding and

control groups. The welders appeared to have typical Parkinson's disease, the

researchers concluded.

 

Welding fumes contain high levels of manganese (Photo

courtesy Conestoga College)

 

"These results are really exciting because we may soon

be able to identify the first environmental cause of

Parkinson's disease," said Racette. "Our first goal is to

show that welding truly does cause this disease. Then we

can figure out which aspect of welding is responsible."

 

This information, Racette argues, will help determine

whether welders should take precautionary measures and

also will help researchers begin to unlock the underlying

cause of this debilitating disorder.

 

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health,

the American Parkinson's Disease Association, the

Charles A. Dana Foundation and the McDonnell Center for

the Study of Higher Brain Function, is featured in the

January issue of the journal "Neurology" with an accompanying editorial.

 

In the editorial, Canadian neurologist Ali Rajput, M.B.B.S., F.R.C.P.C., likens the

search for environmental causes of Parkinson's disease to looking for a needle in

a haystack.

 

"By narrowing the focus to one environmental group, Racette et al. have chosen a

smaller stack and, therefore, have a greater chance of finding whether there is a

needle or not," wrote Rajput.

 


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