Parkinson’s disease (PD) affects millions around the world. The Braak hypothesis proposes that in PD a pathologic agent may penetrate the nervous system via the olfactory bulb, gut, or both and spreads throughout the nervous system. The agent is unknown, but several environmental exposures have been associated with PD. Here, we summarize and examine the evidence for such environmental exposures. We completed a comprehensive review of human epidemiologic studies of pesticides, selected industrial compounds, and metals and their association with PD in PubMed and Google Scholar until April 2016. Most studies show that rotenone and paraquat are linked to increased PD risk and PD-like neuropathology. Organochlorines have also been linked to PD in human and laboratory studies. Organophosphates and pyrethroids have limited but suggestive human and animal data linked to PD. Iron has been found to be elevated in PD brain tissue but the pathophysiological link is unclear. PD due to manganese has not been demonstrated, though a parkinsonian syndrome associated with manganese is well-documented. Overall, the evidence linking paraquat, rotenone, and organochlorines with PD appears strong; however, organophosphates, pyrethroids, and polychlorinated biphenyls require further study. The studies related to metals do not support an association with PD.
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