Mortality from ALS Neurodegenerative Diseases in Flight Attendants

Concern exists about the potential chronic neurological effects among aircrew of exposure to chemical contaminants from engine oil in aircraft cabin air. We evaluated mortality from neurodegenerative diseases among 11,311 former US flight attendants.

Vital status was ascertained through 2007, and life table analyses were conducted to obtain standardized mortality ratios (SMRs).

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) mortality was over twice as high in the cohort as in the US general population, based on nine observed ALS deaths. There was no clear pattern in risk when SMRs for ALS were stratified by exposure duration. Mortality from other neurodegenerative diseases was not elevated.

Our findings are limited due to small numbers of observed deaths and reliance on mortality data, but suggest that flight attendants may have an increased risk of ALS. Additional research is needed. Am. J. Ind. Med. 59:532-537, 2016. Published 2016. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that causes muscle weakness, paralysis, and ultimately, respiratory failure.

You’ve still got lots more to learn. But before you do, we’d like to ask for your help. Because wider awareness about ALS is great, but what we really need is money. Please donate here and help us Rewrite The End of ALS.  Then, come back for the rest of the answers to all of your questions about the disease.

What are the effects of ALS?

ALS attacks certain cells in the brain and the spinal cord needed to keep our muscles moving. Early signs and symptoms of ALS include muscle cramps and twitching, weakness in the extremities and difficulty speaking or swallowing. As the disease progresses, though, it is characterized by:

  • The inability to move any part of your body
  • The inability to speak or communicate with anything but your eyes
  • Complete reliance on a feeding tube for nutrition

The senses, including hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch, are not affected by ALS. In most cases, people with ALS do not experience difficulties in bowel, bladder or sexual function.

Why is it important that you act now?

Hopefully, you already have. If not, all you have to do is go here. Because there are an estimated 450,000 people worldwide living with ALS. Every 90 minutes, someone else is diagnosed. But most people with ALS only live 2-5 years after their first signs of disease. In order to help those who already have the disease, there is no time to waste.

How is ALS treated?

Currently, there is only a single medicine for specifically treating ALS – riluzole. And even this drug, marketed by Sanofi-Aventis under the name Rilutek, only extends survival about 2 to 3 months. So there is currently an urgent, unmet medical need for effective treatments for this devastating and fatal disease.

Analyses were conducted based on underlying cause of death for the Flight Attendant study group.  Multiple causes of death in which all causes of death on the death certificate are considered [Steenland et al., 1992]. Multiple cause of death analyses were conducted because some neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease) are listed on many death certificates as a contributing cause and not as the underlying cause of death [Redelings et al., 2006]. The results presented are for analyses based on underlying cause of death unless otherwise indicated. The study was approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Institutional Review Board.

Link:  A Life Story Foundation Article

Link:  American Journal of Medicine Article

Link:  Doctor Tipster Article


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