Pesticide exposure as a risk factor for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: a meta-analysis of epidemiological studies: pesticide exposure as a risk factor for ALS

Environ Res. 2012 Aug;117:112-9. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2012.06.007. Epub 2012 Jul 20.


Background: Exposure to pesticides and agricultural chemicals has been linked to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) although findings have been inconsistent. A meta-analysis of studies published through May, 2011 was conducted to investigate the association of pesticide exposure and risk of ALS.

Methods: Six peer-reviewed studies that met criteria were included in a meta-analysis of men involving 1,517 ALS deaths from one retrospective cohort study and 589 ALS or motor neuron disease cases from five case-control studies. A random effects model was used to calculate sex-specific pooled odds ratios (ORs).

Results: Evidence was found for an association of exposure to pesticides and risk of ALS in male cases compared to controls (OR=1.88, 95% CI: 1.36-2.61), although the chemical or class of pesticide was not specified by the majority of studies.

Conclusion: This meta-analysis supports the relationship of exposure to pesticides and development of ALS among male cases compared to controls. The weight of evidence links pesticide exposure to ALS; however, additional prospective studies with a target exposure group are necessary to better elucidate the relationship. Future research should focus on more accurate exposure assessment and the use of job exposure matrices.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture*
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / chemically induced*
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Statistical
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pesticides / toxicity*
  • Risk Factors


  • Pesticides