Neurodegenerative diseases: occupational occurrence and potential risk factors, 1982 through 1991

Am J Public Health. 1996 Sep;86(9):1281-8. doi: 10.2105/ajph.86.9.1281.


Objectives: To identify potential occupational risk factors, this study examined the occupational occurrence of various neurodegenerative diseases.

Methods: Death certificates from 27 states in the National Occupational Mortality Surveillance System were evaluated for 1982 to 1991. Proportionate mortality ratios were calculated by occupation for presenile dementia, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and motor neuron disease.

Results: Excess mortality was observed for all four categories in the following occupational categories: teachers; medical personnel; machinists and machine operators; scientists; writers/designers/entertainers; and support and clerical workers. Clusters of three neurodegenerative diseases were also found in occupations involving pesticides, solvents, and electromagnetic fields and in legal, library, social, and religious work. Early death from motor neuron disease was found for firefighters, janitors, military personnel, teachers, excavation machine operators, and veterinarians, among others.

Conclusions: Neurodegenerative disease occurs more frequently in some occupations than in others, and this distribution, which may indicate occupational risk factors, should be further investigated.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • African Americans
  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / epidemiology
  • Alzheimer Disease / mortality*
  • Death Certificates
  • Dementia / epidemiology
  • Dementia / mortality*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Neuron Disease / epidemiology
  • Motor Neuron Disease / mortality*
  • Occupations*
  • Parkinson Disease / epidemiology
  • Parkinson Disease / mortality*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Whites