July 16, 2015
1 min read

Men exposed to formaldehyde at greater risk for ALS mortality

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Men who are employed as funeral directors may be at an increased risk for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis due to the high probability of formaldehyde exposure, according to recently published data.

Researchers evaluated data on 794,541 men and 674,694 women from the National Longitudinal Mortality Study to assess the association between amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) mortality and formaldehyde exposure. Researchers then analyzed participant’s occupations, and categorized them into intensity and probability of formaldehyde exposure: none, low, medium or high. 

Results demonstrated that men who had high exposure occupations were three times more likely to die from ALS, compared with men who had lower-exposure occupations.

All men in the study with high-probability, high-intensity formaldehyde exposure occupations (n = 493) were funeral directors, according to the study. 

No association between formaldehyde exposure and ALS mortality was seen in women. However, these findings may not be an accurate depiction for women and ALS mortality due to having only a small sampling of women in the study with high-intensity and high-probability formaldehyde exposure occupations, according to the study.

The researchers also noted that the results from this study should be carefully interpreted, since both high-probability and high-intensity formaldehyde occupations and ALS are rare in the U.S. 

“In addition to formaldehyde, funeral directors are exposed to other chemicals used in embalming, as well as to viral, bacterial and prion pathogens. Thus, further study of the association of ALS with high levels of formaldehyde exposure and among funeral directors is warranted,” Roberts and colleagues concluded. – by Casey Hower

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.