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Shreveport is a Hotspot in Groundbreaking Study Linking Pollution to Parkinson’s Disease

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Researchers from Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix conducted the study.

There is a link between air pollution and Parkinson’s Disease. And Shreveport finds itself in a hot spot for the disorder. Those are just some of the conclusions from researchers at
Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, considered among the best in the world. The study reveals the entire process from air pollution to neurological disease. And it all begins with microscopic particles, or particulates, floating in the air. When you get too many of those particles concentrated in a certain area that’s called air pollution. Barrow researchers identify the sources of today’s particulates as car and factory exhaust.
Shreveport neurologist Dr. Stephan Witt says ultimately, it’s all about those particles in the air – and what they are made of. In a way it doesn’t surprise me because they talk in the paper about some of that particulate matter having arsenic, zinc, and the metal manganese.”

NASA Climate Change

Researchers say studies have shown that air pollution can cause brain inflammation. According to the latest research findings that swelling can kill important neurons in the brain, which in turn may eventually lead to Parkinson’s. Some people ask if there’s any way to protect themselves. So, I posed that question to Doctor Witt: “Yeah. So that’s a good question. In fact, I was thinking about that. And so really what can you do? You’re going to go outside. I don’t think that’s anything you can do.”
The Barrow researchers found that people living in areas with median levels of air pollution have a 56% greater risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. It’s even worse in areas known as hot spots, in which there is a higher concentration of the more toxic tiny objects. The research examined particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter. For a real-world comparison in size - a human hair is 50-to-70 microns.
These hotspots are remnants of heavy industry that once thrived in those locations, including much of what is now called “the rust belt.”
Over time, more of those toxic particles became almost baked in, or in another analogy – they became part of the area’s DNA, if you will. Barrow research found that in Shreveport - there’s a 20% greater risk of Parkinson’s Disease over long period of time, compared to the rest of the country. “Some of this is coming out of the steel industry. So, but also, I suspect some of it is from coal-fired power plants. And there’s also something about just the weather patterns that are, you know, keeping (it) in this area.” Scientists identified other hotspot areas which include the Mississippi- Ohio River Valley, along with central North Dakota, parts of Texas, Kansas, eastern Michigan, and the
tip of Florida. The study also showed people living in the western half of the U.S. are at a reduced risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, compared with the rest of the nation.

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, and a graduate of the University of Washington, Jeff began his on-air broadcasting career 33 years ago in the Black Hills of South Dakota as a general assignment reporter.