Background: Occupation has been suggested to play a role in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) etiology, but detailed information on the importance of specific workplace exposures is lacking.
Objectives: Our aim was to assess the relationship between workplace exposures and the risk of ALS and to evaluate potential interactions between these exposures and smoking.
Methods: We conducted a case-control study in New England between 1993 and 1996, comprising 109 cases and 253 controls who completed a structured interview covering occupations and workplace exposures. Unconditional logistic regression models were used to estimate the odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for ALS. Analyses were conducted among the entire study population and after stratification by smoking.
Results: We observed a higher risk of ALS for construction workers excluding supervisors (OR = 2.9; 95% CI, 1.2-7.2) and precision metal workers (OR = 3.5; 95% CI, 1.2-10.5). Self-reported exposures to paint strippers; cutting, cooling, or lubricating oils; antifreeze or coolants; mineral or white spirits; and dry cleaning agents each appeared to be associated with a 60-90% higher risk. Specific chemicals related to a > 50% increase in risk of ALS included aliphatic chlorinated hydrocarbons, glycols, glycol ethers, and hexane. Relative risks associated with these workplace exposures and chemicals were greater among nonsmokers and persisted in mutually adjusted models.
Conclusions: Our data suggest that certain occupations and workplace exposures may be associated with increased risk of ALS. These results need to be confirmed in independent populations.
Keywords: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; chemicals; relative risk; risk factors; workplace exposures.