Shreveport, La. (KTAL/KMSS) — A new study found that people living in regions with median levels of air pollution have a 56% greater risk of developing Parkinson’s disease compared to those living in regions with the lowest level of air pollution.

Shreveport was identified as a Parkinson’s disease hot spot in the study.

“Previous studies have shown fine particulate matter to cause inflammation in the brain, a known mechanism by which Parkinson’s disease could develop,” says lead researcher at Barrow Neurological Institute, Brittany Krzyzanowski, PhD.

The Mississippi-Ohio River Valley was identified as the Parkinson’s disease hotspot, along with central North Dakota, parts of Texas, Kansas, eastern Michigan, and the tip of Florida. 

“This means that the pollution in these areas may contain more combustion particles from traffic and heavy metals from manufacturing which have been linked to cell death in the part of the brain involved in Parkinson’s disease,” Krzyzanowski noted in the media statement.

In a media statement, Krzyzanowski said the study suggested a greater focus on air pollution contributions to the development of Parkinson’s disease.

Researchers used a Medicare Dataset of nearly 22 million people which identified nearly 90,000 people with Parkinson’s disease.

Researchers hope the findings will help enforce stricter policies that will lower air pollution levels and decrease the risk of Parkinson’s disease and other associated illnesses.

“Population-based geographic studies like this have the potential to reveal important insight into the role of environmental toxins in the development and progression of Parkinson’s, and these same methods can be applied to explore other neurological health outcomes as well,” Krzyzanowski stated.

The study was published in the medical journal ‘Neurology’ – the American Academy of Neurology.