Lexinton, Kentucky. - Workers exposed to trichloroethylene may face a greater risk for parkinsonism, a group of symptoms similar to Parkinson's disease, a U.S. study found.

Researchers led by Don M. Gash and John T. Slevin of the University of Kentucky College of Medicine identified a number of industrial workers, who experienced long-term exposure to the degreasing agent widely used in industry, but also found in drinking water, surface water and soil due to runoff from manufacturing sites.

The researchers also used an animal model that showed reductions in an enzyme important to energy production and degenerative changes in certain dopamine neurons following exposure to trichloroethylene.

The findings, published in the Annals of Neurology, said chemical is implicated as a principal risk factor for parkinsonism based on its dopaminergic neurotoxicity in animal models -- the high levels of chronic dermal and inhalation exposure.

"It will be important to follow the progression of movement disorders ... over the next decade to fully assess the long-term health risks from trichloroethylene exposure," the study authors said in a statement.