Study Shows Prevalence of ALS and MS in Communities Around Hazardous Waste Sites

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry announced it will develop a cooperative agreement program to "Determine the Prevalence of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) in communities around hazardous waste sites."

"This ATSDR announcement is an important step in collecting more information about what role the environment may play in ALS," said Mary Lyon, vice president, patient services, The ALS Association (ALSA). She said ALSA is notified several times each year about suspected clusters and concerns about local toxicant exposures.

Lyon said ALSA has shared these concerns with neurologists, epidemiologists and the ATSDR. "The program announcement is an opportunity for the ATSDR to respond to community concerns about possible environmental toxicant exposures and the incidence and prevalence of ALS," she added.

In response to the announcement by ATSDR, the ALS Association (ALSA) is contacting all 50 state health departments, urging them to submit an application. Where there are local concerns about the prevalence of ALS and possible toxicant exposures, ALSA is encouraging the ALS community to contact their state health department and ALSA Center or ALS Clinic to ask them to consider applying for one of the awards. Eligible applicants have to be from state health departments or state universities, colleges or research institutions.

ALS, a fatal neurodegenerative disease with an average survival period of two to five years from the time of diagnosis, is believed by many to be a multifactoral disease, a result of a number of events.

Adds ALSA's Mary Lyon, "It is important that we [the ALS community] respond to this opportunity to study prevalence of ALS in these communities by having a number of competitive applications."

ATSDR plans to follow up these prevalence projects with etiologic investigations of the toxicants to try and identify ALS risk factors.

For 2002, $450,000 is available for up to six projects that focus on discovering the prevalence of ALS and MS in local communities. Organizations wishing to respond to the announcement should send a letter of intent from the investigator to ATSDR by June 30, and the application is due by July 30. Funding will begin on Sept. 1. Projects can be up to three years in duration.

For more information about this Program Announcement and the application, go to the Federal Register and click on TEXT next to the Notice of the MS/ALS Prevalence Announcement.

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