We carried out a retrospective incidence, prevalence and mortality survey of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in the province of Reggio Emilia, northern Italy. Based on 79 patients, the mean incidence per year for the period 1980 through 1992 was 1.5 cases per 100,000. On December 31st, 1992, the prevalence rate was 5.4 per 100,000. In the 10-year period of 1983-1992 the average mortality rate was 1.3 per 100,000 per year. The average age at onset was 61.3 +/- 10.2, the average survival period thereafter was 26.3 months +/- 17.7; 27.3 +/- 17.6 for classic ALS, 19.5 +/- 8.4 for progressive bulbar palsy and 36.3 +/- 41.4 for pseudopolyneuritic ALS. The incidence rate, recorded in public health district No.12, an area with documented lead pollution since the 1970s, was standardized to the sex and age of the population of the province. Its incidence and prevalence rate were comparable to the rates found in the remaining area of the province.