Frequent exposure to diesel exhaust on the job is associated with a higher risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, according to a study by a Harvard researcher.
“The overall risk of developing ALS is low, but our findings suggest that the greater the exposure to diesel exhaust, the greater the risk of developing ALS,” Aisha Dickerson of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health said in a statement.
The preliminary study released Tuesday will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 70th annual meeting in April.
“This type of exposure deserves more attention and study as we work to develop a better understanding of what causes ALS,” Dickerson said in the statement, which was released by the academy.
“Importantly, the general population can be exposed to diesel exhaust from traffic pollution. Understanding whether that exposure increases ALS risk is also an important question to pursue,” she said.
The academy noted that the study did not show that diesel exhaust causes ALS. It only showed a statistical association between the two.
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a rare neurological condition that affects the nerves that control voluntary movement. It worsens over time and eventually results in death. There is no cure.
Prominent people with ALS include physicist Stephen Hawking and Beverly native Pete Frates, who inspired the Ice Bucket Challenge, which has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for research into a cure.