TAMSIN JACKSON was only 39 when she was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
Ms Jackson has what doctors call “idiopathic” Parkinson's. It means that she has no family history of the disease and no other clear causes.
Basically, it means they have no idea how she got it – but Ms Jackson has her suspicions.
“My husband had his first 20 years of growing up in town with town water and chlorine and fluoride. I have always lived in rural areas – around Bangalow and Alstonville – and that's the only difference,” she said.
“We've been trying to work out why it was me and not him.”
Ms Jackson wonders whether the agricultural chemicals used legally and legitimately on farms around the Northern Rivers might have something to do with the incurable and degenerative illness that will now dog the rest of her life.
She's not the only one.
Ms Jackson says about 20 people with Parkinson's turned up to a seminar on agricultural chemicals run at Lennox Head last year by Lismore doctor Harry Gibbs and Sunshine Coast vet Matt Landos – who was part of a research team investigating the discovery of a two-headed fish straight out of The Simpsons.
All but two or three of them came from Alstonville and most, like Ms Jackson, had idiopathic Parkinson's.
Dr Gibbs said he had seen a broad range of illnesses apparently linked to agricultural chemicals – from serious heart disease to a skin condition so severe it can kill its sufferers if left untreated.
It's not quite hard data, but Dr Gibbs said there was enough information out there to justify cautionary bans on some chemicals while further studies were done.
That's not the view of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, which says it wants clear evidence a chemical previously thought safe is harmful before it will ban it.
“We are at a stage in the argument like the 1950s or '60s, when there were hints that smoking cigarettes caused problems for human health,” Dr Gibbs said.
“The evidence is not conclusive, but it's very suggestive.”
Regardless of what happens next in that debate, Tamsin Jackson will still be dealing with her mysterious illness and the fact she is decades younger than most others diagnosed with Parkinson's.
Ms Jackson said she had started a morning coffee group for other people who had contracted the disease young – so far there were three members. Anyone interested in joining can call her on 6628 5626.
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