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Thread: Parkinson's Disease - the photographer's disease??

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jul 2000

    Parkinson's Disease - the photographer's disease??

    Hello all,

    I was reading Mary Alinder's bio of Adams and saw something that caught my eye. She said Parkinson's was the photographers disease. Apperantly a number of pro minent photogs have had it. We all know exposure to any kind of chemicals is ba d. I've even heard the chems affect male sperm.

    Question is, Has anyone heard of any documented information linking photo chems and this disease(s)?

    Thanks again, Jeff.

  2. #2

    Parkinson's Disease - the photographer's disease??

    "We all know exposure to any kind of chemicals is bad."

    Yes, one should especially avoid dihydrogen oxide. Symptoms of excessive exposure include frequent urination, bloating, and an overall feeling of wetness.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Sep 1999

    Parkinson's Disease - the photographer's disease??

    There were Peggy Bourke-White and Edward Weston -- I don't know of any others. Two cases don't make a syndrome, and making such a statement doesn't make it factual. I enjoyed the book too, but it is definitely written on the "sensational" side.

  4. #4

    Parkinson's Disease - the photographer's disease??


    I'm a physician and also like to think of myself as a photographer. My medical specialty is Neurology which, of course, places Parkinson's dz within my area of interest. Although exposure to several toxins is known to produce movement disorders resembling Parkinson's dz in humans, there is no evidence to suggest that traditional photographic chemicals (when used in the traditional manner!)cause a Parkinson's syndrome. Many people from all walks of life suffer from Parkinson's dz and Parkinsonian syndromes. Hope that helps.


  5. #5

    Join Date
    Jan 2001

    Parkinson's Disease - the photographer's disease??

    There have been two attorneys here in the town where I live that have had Parkinson's disease. Does this mean that court rooms are toxic?

  6. #6

    Parkinson's Disease - the photographer's disease??

    I have two elderly friends that were photographers their entire life and they have various neurological disorders. One of the men has paripheral neuropothy(?). Not sure what the other specific diagnosis was. He lives in Germany. As a result, I do not put my hands in the chemistry, as was so prevelant in years past and I am making sure that I have a working venelation system in my new darkroom. My JOBO has been a Godsend.

    Sure makes you wonder what exposure to certain chemicals can do given the right set of circumstances.

  7. #7

    Parkinson's Disease - the photographer's disease??

    Didn't you see the article "Shooting Past Eighty" in Vanity Fair a couple months back?

    The stuff under your sink is more hazardous than the stuff in most darkrooms. I am not suggesting you snort powdered pyro or guzzle selenium, but put things in perspective.

    Adams spent the last 10-15 years of his life in the darkroom making more prints than I will ever make in my life. He lived to be 82 and died of heart failure (although cancer was through out his body). I really don't think I have anything to worry about.

    O. Winston Link died in front of a train station at 87. Aaron Siskind ate his last pastrami sandwhich at 87 and his buddy Harry Callahan challenged us till he was 87. Frederick Sommer made it to 93 and he looked better than some of those dead chickens he shot. Imogen Cunningham made it to 93 and did a book on nonegenarians. Brett Weston was 82 when he passed away. Cole had a stroke a while back but he's still giving workshops at 82. Alfred Stiegliz may have been the "Grand Old Man" but he made it to 82. Bernice Abbot did pretty good for herself (and Atget as well) at 93. Andre Kertesz made it to 91. Eliot Porter toted his Linhof till he was 89 and Josef Sudek took 66 years to reuinte with his left arm.

    I like my odds.

  8. #8
    Old School Wayne
    Join Date
    Dec 1999

    Parkinson's Disease - the photographer's disease??

    There is a web page on photographic chemistry that speculates that amidol and pyro may have led to Westons "early" death. First of all, thats all it is, speculation. Second of all, 72 years of age was hardly an "early" age to die in the 1950's!

    IMO, the important thing is how to react to the potential danger of photo chemicals without overreacting. Certainly, things like pyro and amidol and some of the other less mainstream chemicals are potentially dangerous if mishandled or ingested, and should be treated with respect (gloves, masks, venitlation etc, which Weston probably didnt use any of). they are known to be unhealthy if mistreated but theres still no evidence of them causing Parkinson's.

    So answer to your question is a definite "no", although that doesnt mean a link wont be found in the future. proper handling should negate any potential risk.

    My two best friend's mothers have or had Parkinson's disease. But there is no evidence that being a friend of mine causes Parkinson's. ;-)

    My father was a professional photographer for many years, back in the days when few of today's precautions were taken. We had a darkroom in our basement and I dont even remember there being any ventilation! (and no I'm not recommending that). He did color, B&W, and dealt with many different chemicals of the time. He lived to be 76 and died of heart disease, having never developed any exposure related ilness.

  9. #9

    Parkinson's Disease - the photographer's disease??

    I'm sorry, that should have been "Josef Sudek took 56 years to reunite with his right arm."

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Jan 2001

    Parkinson's Disease - the photographer's disease??

    After some twenty and so years breathing B&W chemistry, I've made a decision: never drink Coke any longer. Changed for beer and wine. I'm also willing to live just seventy or eighty years.

    Cesar B.

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