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A chemical in cleaning products may increase our risks of Parkinson's disease and cancer

Gabby Landsverk   

A chemical in cleaning products may increase our risks of Parkinson's disease and cancer
  • A cleaning chemical has been linked to a rise in Parkinson's disease, the Guardian reports.
  • Trichloroethylene is used in household spot removers, carpet cleaners, and industrial degreasers.
  • It can linger in soil and water and is linked to multiple health risks, including cancer.

Researchers warn that the growing number of Parkinson's disease cases may be linked to a chemical found in some household cleaning products such as paint stripper, spot remover, and carpet cleaner.

The number of Americans with Parkinson's has gone up 35% in the past decade, and could double in the next 25 years, the Guardian reported. Evidence suggests that the chemical trichloroethylene could be at least partly to blame.

Trichloroethylene (abbreviated as TCE) is used as an industrial degreaser and solvent to remove stains and clean a variety of materials, including clothing, rugs, and metal equipment. It can also be found in some adhesives, like arts and craft sprays, furniture cleaners, and car cleaning products, which can be risky if people inhale the fumes or get it on their skin, according to the EPA.

Research has found that exposure to trichloroethylene is a risk factor for developing Parkinson's years or even decades later, based on data from people who worked in environments where the chemical is used.

Trichloroethylene is also a known carcinogen, linked to kidney cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and possibly liver cancer. It has been banned in Minnesota and most recently in New York, after Reveal reported the dangers of the chemical and its use at manufacturing plants and military bases in the state.

But trichloroethylene doesn't just affect those who are directly in contact with it, since it can linger in the environment for over a year. People may not even realize they've been exposed, since the chemical can contaminate soil and groundwater, including well water that people drink.

"Numerous studies have linked well water to Parkinson's disease, and it's not just TCE in those cases, it can be pesticides like paraquat, too," Briana de Miranda, a professor of neurology who studies environmental toxins at University of Alabama at Birmingham, told the Guardian.

It can potentially cause heart defects in children, research suggests.

Using a water filter can help mitigate the levels of trichloroethylene, according to the Guardian, but there's still a risk from bathing in contaminated water or inhaling fumes remnants of the chemical.


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