NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

With No Evidence, Media Blames Parkinson's Disease On Pesticides

February 17, 1999

The Hudson Institute's health and science specialist, Michael Fumento, is drawing attention to the press's mishandling of Parkinson's disease research.

A study published in January by the Journal of the American Medical Association made national news when it concluded that heredity plays almost no role in developing Parkinson's disease after age 50. Fumento points out that although the study made no mention whatsoever about pesticides, almost every one of the newspaper stories reporting on the research emphasized the potential role of "herbicides and pesticides" in triggering the disease.

How could this have happened?

  • At a news conference, the JAMA authors stated that if the cause of the disease wasn't genetic, it must be environmental -- which is obvious.
  • Reporters took "environmental" to mean pesticides -- even though it could also mean anything from ingested foods and liquids to germs and weather patterns.
  • J. William Langston of the Parkinson's Institute, a senior author of the study, declares that he and his colleagues were silent on the question of chemicals being the "main cause" of Parkinson's.
  • William Parkinson described the disease in 1817, long before current pesticides were in use -- and Parkinson's is found in every culture in the world.

William Landau, former chief neurologist at the George Washington School of Medicine in St. Louis, says physicians don't know what causes the disease. "But attributing it to something because people have a compulsive drive to postulate a cause to explain the unknown -- despite not an iota of evidence -- is remarkably stupid," Landau adds.

Based on the evidence available, experts point out that there is no evidence of any increase in Parkinson's in the era of modern pesticides -- which began after World War II.

Source: Michael Fumento (Hudson Institute), "How Media Made Parkinson's a 'Man-Made' Disease," Investor's Business Daily, February 17, 1999.


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