Formaldehyde Exposure May Increase Risk Of ALS Disease

Armen Hareyan's picture

People exposed to formaldehyde - a chemical used mostly in household products - have increased risk for developing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease.

Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health examined the link between ALS and 12 types of chemicals. Study was initially focused on affect of pesticides and herbicides, but later they found formaldehyde to be increasing the risk for developing the disease.


The study examined 1100 people who were questioned about the levels of formaldehyde exposure. The study began in 1982 and followed the participants during 15 years. Those who were exposed to the chemical showed to be 34% more likely to develop amyotrophic lateral sclerosis than those exposed to other chemicals.

People with certain jobs - 'beautician, pharmacist, mortician, chemist, lab technician, dentist, fireman, photographer, printer, nurse, doctor and veterinarian' - are also at 30% more likely to develop ALS than people with other professions, because they are being exposed to chemicals constantly.

Formaldehyde is a chemical widely used in wood products. It's used in press fabrics, glues, shampoos, and cosmetics. Formaldehyde is also used in laboratories and mortuaries for preserving tissues and for disinfecting.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a disease also named as Lou Gehrig's disease, because in 1941 Lou Gehrig - New York Yankees baseball player - died of ALS. The disease kills nerve cells in brain and spinal cord called motor neurons. These cells are responsible for muscle movements. Annually, ALS affects about 5600 people in US.