Blood Test for Toxin Exposure, ALS Risk

Over the last decade, research at Michigan Medicine has shown how exposure to toxins in the environment, such as pesticides and carcinogenic PCBs, affect the risk of developing and dying from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Now, investigators have developed an environmental risk score that assesses a person’s risk for developing ALS, as well as for survival after diagnosis, using a blood sample.

The results are published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

Researchers obtained over 250 blood samples from participants in Michigan both with and without ALS. They calculated individual risk and survival models using 36 persistent organic pollutants.

Several individual pollutants were significantly associated with ALS risk. However, the risk for developing the disease was most strongly represented by a mixture of pesticides in the blood.

When considering the mixture of these pollutants, a person who was in the highest group of exposure had twice the risk of developing ALS compared to someone in the lowest group of exposure.

“Environmental risk scores have been robustly associated with other diseases, including cancers, especially when coupled with genetic risk. This is a burgeoning application that should be further studied as we deal with the consequences of pollutants being detected throughout the globe.” said senior author Eva Feldman.


Stephen A Goutman, Jonathan Boss, Dae-Gyu Jang, Bhramar Mukherjee, Rudy J Richardson, Stuart Batterman, Eva L Feldman. Environmental risk scores of persistent organic pollutants associate with higher ALS risk and shorter survival in a new Michigan case/control cohort. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, 2023; jnnp-2023-332121 DOI: 10.1136/jnnp-2023-332121

Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan. (2023, October 30). Drawing a tube of blood could assess ALS risk from environmental toxin exposure. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 30, 2023 from

Image from: