A study has found that people exposed to formaldehyde were 34% more likely to develop Lou Gehrig's disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS) than those who were not exposed.
The results were framed as "preliminary" by American Cancer Society researchers presenting at the American Academy of Neurology meeting in Chicago.
The results are part of a 15-year study of 1 million people who reported their exposure to 12 chemicals. Fewer than 1% of those studied died of ALS.
Those who developed ALS were no more likely to have been exposed to 11 of the 12 chemicals, including pesticides that have long been suspected of contributing to neurological disorders such as ALS. But those reporting exposure to formaldehyde were 34% more likely to have developed ALS.
Although this finding could well be a chance observation, it merits further investigation, particularly because people with longer exposure to formaldehyde had a greater risk of developing ALS than those with shorter exposures, said study author Marc Weisskopf, of Harvard University in Boston. People who reported 10 or more years of exposure were almost four times as likely to develop ALS as those with no exposure.
Formaldehyde is found in many common household products, like wood glues and products. New cabinetry and other home renovation materials are often a source of formaldehyde in the home, as are permanent pres fabrics. The chemical is also used in industrial, medical and laboratory settings.
Those studied reported being exposed to formaldehyde at the beginning of the study period, in 1982. Levels allowed in many consumer products and workplace settings has since been reduced. It's not clear where or to what extent those in the study were exposed.
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