Background: Parkinson’s Disease (PD) has been correlated with several environmental and toxic exposures. The frequency of PD in firefighters is higher than the general population, which may be due to the high amounts of toxin exposures firefighters experience on the job. There is a need to further address the high rates of PD among this subgroup. The purpose of this study is to improve our understanding of the relationship between toxin exposure in firefighters and Parkinsonian symptoms.
Methods: An anonymous survey distributed to Massachusetts firefighters assessed risk factors for toxin exposure and presence of Parkinsonian symptoms. Risk factors included frequency and duration of time spent firefighting, number of fires worked, and history of toxin exposure other than from fires (i.e., pesticides). We collected the frequency of Parkinsonian symptoms including tremors, muscle stiffness, REM behavior disorder, hyposmia, micrographia, and decreased walking pace. Analyses comparing all toxin exposure and presence of Parkinsonian symptoms were performed using Chi-square testing; p<0.05 was considered significant.
Results: Two hundred participants were included in the study. The number of years as a firefighter, the number of days per week working, and the number of fires worked correlated with higher reports of hyposmia, micrographia, and decreased walking pace. Exposure to pesticides and the Vietnam war correlated with higher reports of decreased walking pace and micrographia.
Conclusion: The risk of Parkinsonian symptoms was positively correlated with exposure to several toxins associated with the work of firefighters.