ALS and Formaldehyde Exposure
Interesting information came from the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology held in Chicago in April. One presentation reported a link between workplace formaldehyde exposure as a risk factor for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
ALS (remember Lou Gehrig) is a rare, progressive and fatal neurodegenerative disease that hits during midlife. Only 5-10% have a genetic link and the majority of cases occur randomly with no known risk factors.
The American Cancer Society's Cancer Prevention Study II followed more than 1 million individuals over time. (a very robust study) They found that individuals who reported formaldehyde exposure in the workplace had a 34% higher rate of ALS than the no-exposure group and it was dose related. The occupations that are related to formaldehyde exposure are beauticians, pharmacists, morticians, chemists, laboratory technicians, physicians, veterinarians, dentists, firefighters, photographers, printers and nurses.
This is the first study that links formaldehyde exposure to ALS. It is hard to know what to do with this information (especially for those of us who are in those occupations) and it will be just one more piece of the research puzzle for determining prevention and treatment for ALS.