Labour Research January 2012

Health & Safety Matters

Solvent linked to Parkinson’s

Altough its carcinogenic qualities have been known for some time, the industrial solvent trichloroethylene (TCE) has been long been suspected of being linked to Parkinson’s disease, and a new study has now found a strong link.

TCE — usually known as trike— is used to degrease and clean metal, and can also be found in paint, ink, varnish as well as glue. It is currently rated as a category 2 carcinogen which means that employers are obliged to use a substitute where one is available; its use within the EU has been curtailed since 2001.

The Parkinson’s Institute examined the exposure of 99 identical male twins (where one had Parkinson’s and other did not) to six solvents. It found that exposure to trike resulted in a six to tenfold increase in the incidence of Parkinson’s.

Dr Michelle Gardner, research development manager for the research and support charity Parkinson’s UK, said: “This is the first study to show that the solvent TCE may be associated with an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s.” But further studies are needed to investigate the potential link.

Where trike is used, employers are meant to ensure that the environment in which it is used is sealed. However, in just the last five years, more than a dozen enforcement notices have been served on companies for exposing workers to this industrial solvent.

The study examined other chemical solvents and found that both perchloroethylene (PERC) and carbon tetrachloride (CC14) increased the risk of Parkinson’s.