Diesel Exhaust Increases Risk of Lou Gehrig’s Disease In Men: Study

Air pollution with diesel exhaust may increase a man’s risk of developing Lou Gehrig’s disease, according to the findings of a new study. 

Danish researchers warn that men who were exposed to diesel exhaust may be 20% more likely to have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The findings of the study will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology conference in April, and are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal, but add to the mounting evidence about health risks associated with air pollution.

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Researchers examined data from the Danish National Patient Registry, matching 1,600 men diagnosed with ALS from 1982 to 2013, with 100 control subjects who did not have ALS.

The study used data from diesel exhaust exposure using a job exposure matrix, and factored hazards for specific workers, like gas station attendants, bus drivers, and construction workers. They also calculated the cumulative exposure to diesel exhaust five and 10 years before the diagnosis.

Men who were exposed to diesel exhaust in their jobs 10 years prior were 20% more likely to be diagnosed with ALS than men with no prior significant diesel exhaust exposure. The data indicated that the higher the diesel exposure, the higher the risk of Lou Gehrig’s disease, which suggests a dose-response relationship.

The study found no association between diesel exposure and ALS among women.

In recent years, researchers have warned the long-term effects of air pollution are extremely harmful, causing accelerated aging in children and increased risk of early death, even at low levels.

A study published in 2016 linked air pollution particles to increased risk of degenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s disease. A 2016 World Health Organization report indicated 9 out of 10 people in the world are affected by air pollution. Another study indicated air pollution kills 20,000 older Americans every year.

Researchers of the new study said they do not know what the mechanism of action is that would link diesel exhaust to ALS. However, animal studies have shown a link between diesel exhaust exposure and neuro-inflammation. Diesel exhaust can become neurotoxic and lead to neurodegeneration in the central nervous system.

Other studies have indicated air pollution can damage DNA, cause DNA mutations, cellular death and tissue death.

Researchers also speculates that perhaps ultra fine air pollution particles cross the blood-brain barrier and cause oxidative stress, or heavy metals in the exhaust could be toxic to the brain.

Further research is needed to focus on the potential impact of air pollution exposure in the general population, especially among people living near high-traffic roads, the researchers determined. They also warned that the findings of this study indicate air pollution could play a role in other disease, like Parkinson’s disease.


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