A research team based at University College Cork (UCC) is seeking volunteers from the farming community in Ireland as part of its study into a potential link between the use of pesticides and Parkinson’s disease.

The team will be at the National Ploughing Championships in Co. Laois next week.

“Parkinson’s disease is one of the most common degenerative brain disorders, it affects 1 in every 100 people aged over 60,” Dr. Lucy Collins-Stack, post-doctoral researcher at UCC, said.

“Over the next 20 years, the number of people living with Parkinson’s is estimated to double from 6.5 million to 13 million. At present, around 12,000 people in Ireland are living with Parkinson’s,” she said.

The research team is investigating the possible link between Parkinson’s and pesticide exposure on Irish farms.

“In laboratory settings, certain pesticides can cause Parkinson’s symptoms in rodents. Research in several other countries has established a link between pesticide use and the risk of developing Parkinson’s,” Prof. Aideen Sullivan of UCC’s department of anatomy and neuroscience said.

“Large studies conducted in the US show that individuals with Parkinson’s are twice as likely to report exposure to pesticides in their lifetime,” Prof. Sullivan said.

“Other studies have found that individuals who have prolonged exposure to pesticides have a 70% higher rate of developing Parkinson’s.

“In France, the highest rates of Parkinson’s are in areas of vineyards, specifically those with high fungicide use. However, there is no data on the use of specific types of pesticides and their relationship to Parkinson’s in Ireland,” she said.

“In addition to farm workers, the wider agricultural communities in Ireland can be exposed to pesticides, as these chemicals sometimes travel in the air.

“Some farming pesticides are highly persistent and can be found in treated soils and dust up to decades after application.

“Rural living can mean that people are exposed to pesticides through the air or well water. Our study aims to understand how the use of pesticides may be linked to people with Parkinson’s, as well as their families, with a view to gathering information on the environmental risks associated with Parkinson’s in Ireland,” she said.

Volunteers will be asked to take part in a survey. The team will be in the indoor health and safety section stand hub at the National Ploughing Championships, Block 2, Row 37, Stand 593, Unit 42. Potential volunteers can email; [email protected]