Monday, June 30, 2008

Pathologists and lab techs beware!

I’m glad to be back in the blogosphere and will mark my return by noting a report brought to my attention by Dr. Chad DeFrain. According to an article in the May 28, 2008 issue of JAMA (299:20, p 2375-6), formaldehyde exposure seems to be a risk factor for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The author reports on data presented at this year’s American Academy of Neurology meeting in Chicago. (I attended that meeting, but missed this presentation. I must have been sitting by the hotel pool!) In any case, the link between formaldehyde exposure and ALS is based on a large prospective cohort study by Dr. Marc Weisskopf and colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health. Researchers found a more than 4-fold increase risk of ALS among those who reported formaldehyde exposure over a course of more than ten years. Physicians were among the at-risk occupations for formaldehyde exposure. I suppose pathologists would be particularly vulnerable. If you look on the container of 10%-buffered formalin solution you use to fix your specimens, you’ll see that it is composed of 4% formaldehyde. Other at-risk occupations include laboratory technicians, morticians, firefighters, beauticians, and others. Yikes!