Lou Gehrig's disease and pesticides


Exposure to pesticides increases the risk of developing Lou Gehrig's disease?

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), better known in France as Charcot's disease and as Lou Gehrig's disease in the United States, is a neurodegenerative disease causing progressive paralysis of the muscles. It is a fortunately rare but nevertheless fatal disease.

While there is a genetic basis for Lou Gehrig's disease, the results of an Italian study entitled "Environmental and Occupational Risk Factors for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: A Population-Based Case-Control Study" suggests that certain environmental factors may play a role in the development of ALS.

Is ALS an occupational disease?

Exposure to polluting products would play a triggering role, especially chronic exposure as found in certain occupational environments such as those related to intensive agriculture.

The study on occupational exposures shows that exposure to pesticides, solvents, electromagnetic fields and heavy metals predisposes humans to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

The results show that farmers who use agricultural pesticides are more likely to contract Lou Gehrig's disease and this particularly after a long period of exposure. Exposure to fungicides is also incriminated.

In the same way, workers and craftsmen who are exposed to thinners and paint removers incur the same risk.

Finally, exposure to heavy metals such as lead, mercury or selenium also increases the risk.

One of the strengths of this study is that it studied the general population. The study area included different Italian regions, located in the north and south of the country, with different lifestyles, different environmental exposures, different genetic backgrounds... All of these factors can modify susceptibility to the disease.
Importantly, subjects with a history of ALS in their relatives were excluded from the study in order to better evaluate the role of environmental risk factors for Lou Gehrig's disease.

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