Beware of manufacturing, welding and chemical industries exposed to metals and hazardous chemicals
Workers in manufacturing, welding, and chemical work are at higher risk of developing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a study found, especially in heavy chemical industries that are prone to exposure to metals and hazardous chemicals. Based on the research papers of the University of Michigan researchers published in the International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health recently, the health medicine webzine ‘Health Day’ reported on the 26th (local time).
ALS, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease as one of the motor neuron diseases (MND), is a devastating rare disease that gradually destroys nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that connect to the muscles, weakening them, making them stiff, and making them useless. High levels of pesticides and carcinogenic compounds are found in the blood of ALS patients.
The researchers analyzed 381 ALS patients and 272 control subjects to find out what kind of work environment they were exposed to based on their most recent job and the 4 jobs they had the longest. ALS patients had high levels of exposure to metals, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, and combustion contaminants prior to occupational diagnosis. ALS risk was found to be high in manufacturing and welding industry workers.
Exposure to metals was most associated with the risk of ALS. Exposure to steel or welding fumes was most common. The researchers found that exposure to particulates and volatile organic compounds, such as silica and formaldehyde, is at increased risk, especially in manufacturing and trade industries with high exposure to metals.
“Our study shows that certain occupational settings and exposures increase the likelihood of developing ALS,” said lead author Professor Steve Gutman, director of the Franzer ALS Clinic and associate director of the University of Michigan’s ALS Center of Excellence, and first author of the paper. “Some of the workers with ALS may have been unwittingly exposed to a mixture of metals and other chemicals that could damage the central nervous system,” he said.
ALS is a fatal progressive disease that begins with muscle weakness, slurred speech, and difficulty swallowing, eventually leading to death due to inability to breathe. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 5 to 10 out of 100,000 Americans suffer from the disease. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved riluzole and edaravone for the treatment of ALS, but both drugs only slightly slow the progression of the disease.
Eva Feldman, director of the Center for Excellence in ALS at the University of Michigan, said, “I have been caring for ALS patients for 30 years, but there is no effective treatment for ALS. “He said.
The paper can be found at the following link (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00420-022-01874-4).