Exposure to chemicals and metals and risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: a systematic review

Amyotroph Lateral Scler. 2009 Oct-Dec;10(5-6):302-9. doi: 10.3109/17482960802455416.


Environmental exposure to chemicals and metals may contribute to the risk of sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Two systematic reviews of the literature on these topics performed according to the well-established MOOSE guidelines are presented. Literature cited in MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, and Cochrane databases (up to March 2007) as well as references of relevant articles were screened for case-control or cohort studies investigating the associations between sporadic ALS and exposure to chemical agents or metals. Methodology of selected studies was appraised according to Armon's classification system for ALS risk factor studies as well as a newly developed classification system for quality of exposure assessment. Seven of the 38 studies concerning exposure to chemicals and three of the 50 studies concerning exposure to metals fulfilled the validity criteria. In two independent studies meeting the validity criteria, a significant association with increased ALS risk was reported for exposure to pesticides. This systematic review demonstrated the difficulty in attaining a high level of evidence due to lack of high quality of methodological and exposure assessment components. Although pesticide exposure was identified as candidate risk factor, more well-designed studies are needed to provide a definitive answer about exogenous factors of ALS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / etiology*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Humans
  • Metals / adverse effects*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Pesticides / adverse effects*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Review Literature as Topic
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Solvents / adverse effects*


  • Metals
  • Pesticides
  • Solvents