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Evidence Points to Welding Fumes Causing Early Parkinson-Like Brain Damage


Evidence is linking exposure to welding fumes to damage done to dopaminergic neurons in the brain. This link raises a welders’ risk for Parkinson’s disease (PD).

The study of healthy welders who were exposed to manganese, positron emission tomography (PET) imaging showed reduced uptake of the tracer F-18-fluoro-L-dopa (FDOPA), which is a significant sign pointing toward dysfunction in the nigrostriatal dopamine system.

A Law Office issued a statement putting the findings into layman’s terms: “This study suggests that a substantial percent of welders may have brain injury, even if they do not have symptoms currently.”

In real-world language, fumes produced by welding contain manganese. It is this element that has been linked to neurologic problems, including PD-like symptoms. Even at low levels of exposure, the symptoms remained.

Twenty welders with no symptoms of PD were studied. They were recruited from two different Midwestern shipyards and another metal fabrication company. Each welder had an average of 30,000 hours of lifetime welding exposure. The researchers also studied twenty subjects with idiopathic PD who were not welders and twenty subjects who were not welders and did not have PD as control groups.

The researchers found that average blood manganese levels among the welders were 2 times the upper limit of normalcy established by prior studies of the general populations. One researcher responded by saying, “Compared with controls, asymptomatic manganese-exposed welders had an average 11.7% reduction in PET FDOPA uptake in the caudate, suggesting presynaptic nigrostriatal dysfunction.”

The welders also had an increase in the pallidum on T-weighted magnetic resonance imaging, which correlates with hours of manganese exposure.

The welders also had mildly elevated average Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale motor scores, showing the possibility of mild parkinsonian features.

A doctor says that follow-up studies on these workers will be “essential.” to fully understanding the implications of the hypotheses. The professor of neurology at Washington University School of Medicine and hospitals in The Bronx and Brooklyn released a statement saying that with one million welding professionals in the U.S., “If further investigation of this potential link between neurotoxic effects and these fumes proves it is valid, it would have a substantial public health impact for the US workforce and the economy.”

You can be certain that as new information becomes available about different occupations and the inherent risk factors attributed to brain injury, that New York City Brain Injury Attorneys are learning all they can in order to be of the most help to their clients. Call today with questions or if you think a particular aspect of your job or the job of a relative led to brain injuries.

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