A team of researchers from Harvard School of Public Health have recently made a very important discovery. According to the new study they published in the newest issue of the Journal of Neurology and Psychiatry on the 13th of July, people who breathe formaldehyde fumes face a threefold risk of developing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
This is really bad news for the people who work in funeral homes, because they are more exposed to the substance while embalming dead bodies.
The findings might be extremely important, according to the lead study author, Andrea Roberts, who is a research associate working for Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts:
“The study is important because, unfortunately, we know almost nothing about what causes ALS, which is 100% fatal within a very short time period,” she explained.
Along with her team of researchers, she studied a large collection of data from the National Longitudinal Mortality Study, following the lives of 1.5 million people from 1973 until their death.
After careful analysis, they found a link between ALS and formaldehyde. More precisely, they discovered that the men who were exposed to this substance faced a three times higher risk of developing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
In the case of women, a similar link was not found because there were much fewer of them with jobs involving high exposure to formaldehyde. Therefore, it was not possible for the team to calculate a similar risk.
However, the researchers also warn that the results should be handled carefully because, even in the case of men, there are not many jobs in which they must deal with formaldehyde exposure. In addition to that, ALS is not extremely common in the United States either. The collection they studied only recorded two deaths related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a disorder involving the death of neurons. The person who suffers from it usually complains of stiff muscles and muscle twitching. As the disease progresses, the person starts to lose muscular mass and presents difficulty in swallowing, speaking and breathing.
Even if there is a genetic component to ALS, it was proved that the disease is inherited in only 5-10 percent of the time. The reasons behind the disease are largely unknown for the remaining 90-95 percent of the cases.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for the disease, even if there is some treatment available that can prolong the person’s life by two to three months. In most instances, the people who develop the condition are over 60 years old and most of them might live up to four years before they die from respiratory failure.
ALS is quite a rare condition, it only affects 2 people per 100, 000. Even so, there have been campaigns to support the disease. Last year, the bucket challenge became quite popular all over the world.
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