Diesel Exhaust Might Raise Driver’s Odds for ALS

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Truckers and others who are routinely exposed to diesel fumes while on the job might face a greater chance of developing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a new study suggests.

The increased risk hit a high of 40 percent when compared against men with no such exposure, said study author Aisha Dickerson. She’s a postdoctoral research fellow with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

“The strongest association we saw was for occupations that were held at least for 10 years prior to their ALS diagnosis,” Dickerson said. “Someone could have been exposed years earlier, before they showed any symptoms of ALS, but the damage would have been done long ago.”

Jobs with a lot of diesel exhaust exposure include truck drivers, police officers, shipyard hands, construction workers, farm laborers and tool operators, as well as many people who work in an industrial setting, Dickerson said.

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a neurodegenerative condition in which the nerve cells responsible for controlling muscle movement wither and die. Patients eventually lose their strength and their ability to walk, move, speak, eat and even breathe. There is no cure, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Prior studies have suggested a higher risk of ALS in specific jobs that are commonly exposed to diesel fumes, such as truck and bus drivers, construction workers and military personnel, Dickerson said.

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SOURCES: Aisha Dickerson, Ph.D., postdoctoral research fellow, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston; Anthony Geraci, M.D., director, neuromuscular center, Northwell Health, Manhasset, N.Y.; April 21-27, 2018, presentation, American Academy of Neurology annual meeting, Los Angeles

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