Occupational Metal Exposures and the Risk of Parkinson’s Disease

Occupational exposure to specific metals (manganese, copper, lead, iron, mercury, zinc, aluminum and others) appears to be a risk factor for Parkinson's disease (PD) in some, but not all, case-control studies. These epidemiological studies are reviewed. Several methodological issues that may account for the lack of unanimity of findings are discussed, and suggestions for improved case-control methodology are offered.

The study of the neurological disease outcome of workers who have had long-term, well-defined occupational exposure to one or more metals is also urged, with collaborative work including industrial hygienists, occupational toxicologists, neurologists, epidemiologists and biostatisticians.

Such efforts, employing state-of-the-art case and control ascertainment and enrollment from suitable population bases, neurological diagnostic rigor and exposure assessment, will help to further define the potentially important roles played by metals in PD and other neurodegenerative disorders.