Parkinson’s Disease and Manganese

Evidence shows the link between certain toxins in the environment, such as manganese, and Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease is a progressive impairment or deterioration of nerve cells in the brain areas called substantia nigra. The brain does not produce enough dopamine, resulting in abnormal nerve functioning and a loss of control over bodily movements.

It takes a long time to eliminate manganese from the central nervous systems so neurotoxic effects can occur with time, including Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease is characterized by rigidity, tremors, slowness of movement, difficulty walking, and balance problems. Researchers have linked the disease with manganese poisoning after observing workers exposed to manganese had an earlier onset of Parkinson’s disease then individuals not at high risk for manganese exposure.

The Department of Internal Medicine and Clinical Pathology at the National Taiwan University Hospital found several cases of parkinsonism after there was an outbreak due to an unrepaired ventilation control system in a ferromanganese smelter. The ventilation system in the smelter was not repaired for eight months in 1985, and 132 workers were then submitted to a thorough medical examination and estimated air concentrations of carbon monoxide and manganese at different worksites. Six of eight workers performing electrode fixation or welding during 1985 developed parkinsonism after being exposed to manganese for 30 minutes every day for seven days a week.

The workers had been subjected to high concentrations of air manganese. These parkinsonism developments showed the dangers of improper work conditions with harmful toxins like manganese, such as a breakdown of a ventilation system that can result in serious conditions.

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