Chemical exposure may increase risk of ALS

Apr 16, 2008

Preliminary results show that a common environmental chemical may increase the risk of developing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, according to research that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology 60th Anniversary Annual Meeting in Chicago, April 12–19, 2008.

The study was based on the Cancer Prevention Study II of the American Cancer Society. Over one million people were asked to report their exposure to 12 types of chemicals. The participants were followed for 15 years, and the number of people who died during that time of ALS was tracked. A total of 617 men and 539 women died from ALS during the study.

Researchers found no significant link between ALS and exposure to most chemicals, including pesticides and herbicides. People who reported that they had regular exposure to formaldehyde, however, were 34 percent more likely to develop ALS than those with no exposure to formaldehyde.

“Although this finding could well be a chance observation, it merits further investigation, particularly because people with longer exposure to formaldehyde had a greater risk of developing ALS than those with shorter exposures,” said study author Marc Weisskopf, PhD, of Harvard University in Boston. “People who reported 10 or more years of exposure were almost four times as likely to develop ALS as those with no exposure.”

Weisskopf said the results are preliminary and more research needs to be done to test the results. “This finding was somewhat surprising, because formaldehyde has not been raised as an issue in ALS before,” he said.

Formaldehyde is used in particle board and other wood products, permanent press fabrics, glues, and other household products, such as cosmetics and shampoo. It is also used as a preservative in medical laboratories and mortuaries, and as an industrial disinfectant.

Weisskopf noted that the participants were asked about their exposure to formaldehyde and other chemicals in 1982. In 1987, formaldehyde was classified as a probable human carcinogen at high exposure levels by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1987.

“Exposure since then has generally decreased, but it certainly isn’t gone,” he said.

Source: American Academy of Neurology

Explore further: New compounds protect nervous system from the structural damage of MS

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Nature: economic growth impacts on China's air quality

Sep 01, 2005

China's spectacular economic growth during the last decade has brought many benefits – and some challenges. Global atmospheric mapping of nitrogen dioxide pollution performed by ERS-2's GOME and Envisat's ...

Recommended for you

Mystery of the reverse-wired eyeball solved

Feb 27, 2015

From a practical standpoint, the wiring of the human eye - a product of our evolutionary baggage - doesn't make a lot of sense. In vertebrates, photoreceptors are located behind the neurons in the back of the eye - resulting ...

Neurons controlling appetite made from skin cells

Feb 27, 2015

Researchers have for the first time successfully converted adult human skin cells into neurons of the type that regulate appetite, providing a patient-specific model for studying the neurophysiology of weight ...

Quality control for adult stem cell treatment

Feb 27, 2015

A team of European researchers has devised a strategy to ensure that adult epidermal stem cells are safe before they are used as treatments for patients. The approach involves a clonal strategy where stem cells are collected ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.