Parkinson’s, cancer tied to dry cleaning site that leaked TCE

[ – 2024.05.10] There were more cases of Parkinson’s disease and cancer than expected among attorneys who worked near a now-closed dry cleaner in Rochester, New York that leaked trichloroethylene (TCE) and other dry cleaning solvents into the soil, a study finds.

While they failed to reach statistical significance, the findings add to evidence that exposure to chemical hazards in the workplace, at home, and in public places contributes to Parkinson’s.

The study, “Dry-Cleaning Chemicals and a Cluster of Parkinson’s Disease and Cancer: A Retrospective Investigation,” was published as a brief report in Movement Disorders.

Here, researchers at the University of Rochester studied whether Parkinson’s and cancer were more frequent than expected among attorneys who worked in an office across from a large dry cleaner that operated from 1950 to 1994.

Two years before it closed, TCE, perchloroethylene (PCE), and other chemicals were found in the surrounding soil. While it wasn’t tested, it’s possible that those chemicals contaminated groundwater or turned into vapor that entered nearby buildings.

The study included data from 79 attorneys who worked for at least a year between 1968 and 2001 in a law firm with offices in an 18-story building that had a three-level underground parking garage toward which the groundwater flowed.

“The time lag between exposure and diagnosis makes environmental studies challenging,” the researchers wrote. “In this case, the extent to which vapors entered the tower or garage over 20 years ago is unknown as no testing (to our knowledge) was performed.”

Among those near the contaminated site, four (5.1%) developed Parkinson’s, a rate higher than the expected 1.7% for their age and sex, but not significantly different from that of the controls (1.3%).

Fifteen (19%) attorneys in the building had a TCE-related cancer compared with four (5.3%) controls. When looking only at men, TCE-related cancer tended to be more frequent in those who’d worked near the contaminated site (21.1% vs. 8.2%).

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