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AAN: Formaldehyde Linked to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Researchers rule out exposure to pesticides and herbicides as a cause of the condition

THURSDAY, April 17 (HealthDay News) -- Exposure to formaldehyde -- but not to pesticides and herbicides -- may increase the risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, according to research presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Chicago.

Marc Weisskopf, Ph.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues studied the relationship between self-reported exposure to 12 different chemical classes and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis mortality in more than one million participants in the Cancer Prevention Study II. Between 1989 and 2002, they identified 507 deaths from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis among men and 430 among women.

The researchers found that only formaldehyde exposure was associated with an increased risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (relative risk 1.5), which steadily increased among subjects reporting more years of exposure (RR, 1.7 for less than four years, 2.4 for 4 to 10 years, and 4.3 for more than 10 years). But they found no evidence of an association between exposure to pesticides and herbicides and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

"Because of the longitudinal design, this result is unlikely to be due to bias, but it should nevertheless be interpreted cautiously and needs to be independently verified," the authors conclude.


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