Acid precipitation and the prevalence of parkinson’s disease: An ecologic study in U.S. states

Gary G. Schwartz, Mark R. Williamson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Although the etiology of Parkinson’s disease (PD) is unknown, potentially informative clues lie in its geographic distribution. PD prevalence rates within the U.S. are significantly higher in the Midwest and Northeast, a pattern that resembles the geographic distribution of acid precipitation (“acid rain”). Using linear and multivariable regression, we examined state-wide data on PD prevalence in relation to environmental factors including total precipitation, the acidity of precipitation, the use of well water, and industrial releases of sulfuric acid. In multivariate analyses, age-, race-, and gender-adjusted prevalence rates for PD were inversely correlated with well water use and positively correlated with industrial releases of sulfuric acid and with the quantity of acid precipitation (p < 0.0001). To our knowledge, this is the first report of an association between PD and acid rain. Because acid rain is known to leach metals from soils and pipes into drinking water, acid rain’s association with PD prevalence adds support for a role for metals in the etiology of PD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number779
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Acid rain
  • Epidemiology
  • Etiology
  • Hypothesis
  • Parkinson’s disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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