Research Projects - Environmental Health

woman in research lab studying a plantEnvironmental issues are part of an encompassing interpretation of health. PHREI has several projects that directly relate healthcare to environmental concerns.


The Association of Brain Organochlorine Levels with Pathologic Markers of Parkinson's Disease

The goal of this epidemiologic and neuropathologic program is to

determine neurotoxic and preventive/ameliorative risk factors for Parkinson’s disease (PD), Parkinsonism, and other neurodegenerative conditions. The research involves analysis of existing data in the Honolulu-Asia Aging Study (HAAS) to examine the relationship of brain organochlorine levels with substantia nigra neuron density and striatal dopamine and dopamine metabolite levels. 

A component of this project is to identify risk factors for PD and Parkinsonism and to confirm previous reports of an association between pesticide exposure and PD by examining the role of exposure to neurotoxins in occupations on sugar or pineapple plantations where pesticides or herbicides are used. The study also looks at self reported exposures to pesticides, metals, and other chemicals.

Results indicate that several organochlorines are detected more frequently in brains of men who also had Parkinson's disease at death. The organochlorine exposure in most of these brains took place as long as 30 years ago. We are beginning to examine the association of these levels with clinical endpoints (Parkinson’s disease, Parkinsonism, Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive impairment) and continuing our evaluation of pathologically-detectable endpoints.