Commonly Used Neurotoxic Pesticide Exposure Increases ALS Risk to Workers and Residents

September 30, 2021 | Individuals working or living in areas with frequent neurotoxic pesticide use experience a higher incidence of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) than the general population. A study, published in NeuroToxicology, finds a positive association between sporadic (nongenetic, spontaneous) ALS incidents among individuals exposed to neurotoxic pesticides. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (or Lou Gehrig’s disease) is a neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. As many as 16,000 – 20,000 Americans live with this condition, which weakens muscle/motor function leading to loss of muscle control for walking, talking, eating/swallowing, and breathing. Severe ALS progression is fatal and has no current cure. Although research finds that genetic factors play a role in disease etiology (cause), most ALS cases do not result from genetic inheritance. Several research studies demonstrate exposure to environmental or work-related toxicants (e.g., pesticides) predispose humans to the disease. With researchers predicting a global ALS incidence increase of 69% by 2040, identifying ALS’s causal factors are important to future research. Researchers note, “[W]e identified pesticides applied to crops in the area of residences associated with risk of ALS in a large healthcare claims network. Our analysis identified several herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides that have been implicated in the literature as being neurotoxic as potential ALS risk factors.” [Andrew, Angeline et al. Pesticides applied to crops and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis risk in the U.S. NeuroToxicology. Vol. 87, pp.128–135, 2021.]