Pollutants may speed up ALS progression

New research, appearing in the BMJ Journal of Neurology,suggests that various pollutants may not only raise the risk of people developing ALS but also make the disease advance faster.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a neurodegenerative condition that affects a person’s motor neurons — that is, nerve cells that control the movement of muscles.

The disease is progressive and eventually fatal. In 2015, there were more than 16,000 cases of ALS in the United States.

Researchers do not yet know what causes the condition, but scientists have recently been investigating a range of potential risk factors.

For example, one such study suggested that the mercury in fish and seafood can double the risk of developing ALS in people who consume large amounts of fish.

Pesticides have also recently emerged as a potential risk factor. In 2016, Dr. Eva L. Feldman, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, led a study suggesting that exposure to pesticides, such as dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT), methoxychlor, and benzene hexachloride may raise a person’s risk of developing ALS in their lifetime.

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