Research suggests that the effects of pollution from eruptions from Mount Etna could be leading to misdiagnosis of Parkinson’s disease in the surrounding area.
Scientists in Italy used X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) for the first time to investigate the chemical composition of the surface of stones emitted from the volcano. XPS allowed them to differentiate between elements present on the stone surface and elements in the bulk, to provide them with information on which elements in particular are being leached from the stones into the surrounding environment.
The scientists found that more than twice as much manganese was found on the surface of the stone samples than in the bulk, which could explain why recent analysis of water from Etna wells showed high levels of manganese among other elements.
Chronic exposure to manganese can cause manganism. Symptoms include impaired motor skills and tremors – symptoms that are also typical of Parkinson’s disease. The scientists suggest that their surface analysis indicates that some cases of Parkinson’s in east Sicily, where there is a higher than average number of cases, may actually be due to misdiagnosed manganism.