Neurotoxicity is amongst the many pernicious effects that have been attributed to formaldehyde exposure. The fixative, which works by cross-linking proteins, has been shown to cause protein aggregation in neurons. Nevertheless, the link between formaldehyde and an increased risk of ALS remains elusive, as studies have yielded mixed results. In the July 13 Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, researchers led by Marc Weisskopf from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts describe results of a meta-analysis of ALS mortality and degree of occupational exposure to formaldehyde. The researchers used records from the National Longitudinal Mortality Study (NLMS), an NIH-sponsored study, which includes nearly 1.5 million records from the U.S.. Men with high probability and intensity of formaldehyde exposure, who were all funeral directors, had approximately three times the risk of dying of ALS than those who had not been exposed. However, the study was limited by several factors, including the small number of ALS deaths in the cohort, suggesting that follow up studies are merited before strong conclusions can be made.
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Roberts AL, Johnson NJ, Cudkowicz ME, Eum KD, Weisskopf MG. Job-related formaldehyde exposure and ALS mortality in the USA. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2015 Jul 13. [Pubmed]