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Environmental Risk Factors for Parkinson’s Disease in a Prospective Veteran Cohort

Study Rationale:    
Parkinson’s disease may be caused by exposure to toxic substances in the environment, but few of these have been identified. One reason may be that scientists have studied the wrong toxic substances. Another reason may be that previous studies did not accurately measure exposures. In this project, we will study military veterans who may have been exposed to very high levels of substances that have not been studied before. We will use a study design that accurately measures exposures. 

We hypothesize that the risk of Parkinson’s disease is higher in military service members who were exposed to high levels of environmental toxicants during deployment.

Study Design:
We will study the 200,000 service members who participate in the prospective Millenium Cohort (MilCo). They have answered detailed surveys about their environmental exposures and health since 2001. We will compare the environmental exposure histories of MilCo members with and without Parkinson’s disease to determine which types of exposure increase the risk of disease. Information on exposure and Parkinson’s disease also will be obtained from Veterans Administration and Department of Defense records.

Impact on Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease:        
MilCo provides the opportunity to investigate Parkinson’s disease and a broad range of exposures, which are relevant to military personnel and civilians with similar exposures. Our goal is to discover environmental causes of Parkinson’s disease to prevent Parkinson’s in the future.
Next Steps for Development:
If successful, we hope to reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease in the future by limiting human exposure to toxicants that increase the risk of Parkinson’s and removing them from the environment.  


  • Samuel M. Goldman, MD, MPH

    San Francisco, CA United States

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