MND and funeral directors-really?

A recent report published in July in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry (JNNP) suggests a link between motor neurone disease (MND) and funeral directors. The alleged culprit here is formaldehyde, but other chemicals and agents were not let off the hook.

By Mogens Engelund - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3713401
By Mogens Engelund – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3713401

The numbers involved are not large, and the authors advise caution in making interpretations. Your patients have however read the report, for example in this piece in the Telegraph. And almost certainly without the cautionary note! This is important because another study, less widely publicised, found no asssociation between MND and formaldehyde.  

Methanal Molymod. Formaldehyde molecule. Brian Edgar on Flikr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/29803258@N02/4996943255
Methanal Molymod.
Formaldehyde molecule. Brian Edgar on Flikr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/29803258@N02/4996943255

The list of potential causes and risk factors for MND, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), is quite long. There seems to be a link with smoking, but not alcohol, which apparently reduces the risk. There appears to be a convincing association with lead exposure, but the evidence is not strong enough for other heavy metals.

By Alchemist-hp (talk) (www.pse-mendelejew.de) - Own work, FAL, Link
By Alchemist-hp (talk) (www.pse-mendelejew.de) – Own work, FAL, Link

Its not all doom and gloom however. Farmers can feel reassured that pesticides and herbicides do not appear to be risky. Furthermore Vitamin E appears to protect against developing MND, although such associations must always be taken with a slight pinch of salt!

Spraying pesticides on bananas in the 1980s. Scott Nelson on Flikr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/scotnelson/9159665647
Spraying pesticides on bananas in the 1980s. Scott Nelson on Flikr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/scotnelson/9159665647

For more on MND/ALS, see my other blog posts:

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