Potato fields, pesticides and Parkinson’s

Steve Morris didn’t notice his left arm had stopped swinging when he walked; a buddy pointed it out. But his symptoms, including a tremor in his left hand, soon worsened, and by the time the community college teacher went to see a doctor two years ago, he was pretty sure the diagnosis would be Parkinson’s disease.
He was surprised, though, by the questions the neurologist asked after delivering the bad news. Had Mr. Morris grown up around farms? Had he ever worked on a farm? Did he ever drink from a well?
The answer to all three was an emphatic yes. Mr. Morris had spent his childhood in Florenceville, the heart of New Brunswick’s potato country, and now lives in Woodstock, N.B., across the street from a potato farm. As a kid, he used to run outside to watch the spray planes and he remembers his father having to turn on the wipers to clear the pesticide residue off the windshield. His doctor thought there could be a connection.
“I’m not a neurosurgeon, so I can’t find cause and effect. But I grew up surrounded by pesticides,” the 52-year-old says.
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