A mixtures approach to solvent exposures and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: a population-based study in Denmark

Eur J Epidemiol. 2020 Mar;35(3):241-249. doi: 10.1007/s10654-020-00624-5. Epub 2020 Mar 19.


Studies of occupational solvent exposures and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) have been conflicting. We conducted a population-based case-control study of mixed occupational solvent exposures and ALS. Using the Danish National Patient Registry, we identified ALS cases in Denmark from 1982 to 2013, and matched them to 100 controls based on sex and birth year. We estimated cumulative exposures to solvents (benzene, methylene chloride, toluene, trichloroethylene, perchloroethylene, and 1,1,1-trichloroethane) via job exposure matrices and applied them to occupational history from the Danish Pension Fund. Sex-stratified conditional logistic regression analyses revealed higher adjusted odds of ALS for men with exposure to benzene (aOR = 1.20; 95% CI 1.02, 1.41) and methylene chloride (aOR = 1.23; 95% CI 1.07, 1.42). We used weighted quantile sum regression to explore combined solvent exposures and risk of ALS in exposed subjects and found increased odds of 26 to 28% in all exposure lag periods for every one-unit increase in the mixture index in men. Weights of methylene chloride predominated the mixture index in all lag periods. Our study suggests an increased risk of ALS in men exposed to multiple solvents, with the greatest influence being from methylene chloride. These findings highlight the need to utilize mixtures analysis when considering co-occurring exposures.

Keywords: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); Mixtures; Motor neuron disease; Occupational exposures; Solvents.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / chemically induced*
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / epidemiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methylene Chloride / adverse effects
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Population Surveillance
  • Risk Factors
  • Solvents / adverse effects*


  • Solvents
  • Methylene Chloride