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ALS and formaldehyde exposure: is there a link?

As some of our long-time followers may remember, the last time we touched on the topic of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS for short, was in August of last year when we talked about the Ice Bucket Challenge, a social media craze that raised awareness for this debilitating condition. As we explained in the post, this particular disease affects nerves in the brain and spinal cord, eventually causing paralysis. Patients often require constant health care before they die from the disease.

What we didn't touch on at the time was the fact that doctors and scientists don't really know what causes ALS. Medical professionals aren't even sure why some people develop the disease and others do not. Despite this fact though, researchers believe they may have discovered a clue to the development of ALS and it lies in funeral directors across the nation.

According to a new study conducted at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, a link may have been discovered between formaldehyde exposure and the development of ALS.

Researchers came to this conclusion after looking at national datasets of 1.5 million Americans who had died from ALS. In many of the cases, funeral director was listed as their occupation. After looking at the datasets further, researchers saw that funeral directors were 4.5 times more likely to die from this disabling condition than those who had no formaldehyde exposure.

Though the researchers couldn't exactly prove that exposure to formaldehyde causes ALS, the fact that a potential link exists gives scientists hope that this discovery could lead to further research breakthroughs and possibly even a cure. Until such a time though, ALS patients should know that they are still eligible for disability benefits through SSDI and may want to apply for these benefits in order to use them toward medical care.

Sources: TIME, "Why Funeral Directors May Be at Higher Risk for ALS," Many Oaklander, July 14, 2015

The Social Security Administration, "DI 23022.100 Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)," Accessed July 14, 2015

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