Dementia by formaldehyde or death by blogging?

| April 17, 2008

Exposure to formaldehyde may increase risk of developing ALS, study suggests

Reuters (4/17, Steenhuysen) reports that according to findings presented at a meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Chicago, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health say that "[e]xposure to the widely used chemical formaldehyde may raise one’s risk of getting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease." Furthermore, individuals employed as pharmacists, chemists, lab technicians, doctors, and dentists have "a much higher risk" of developing ALS.

For the study, the research team "examined statistics from an American Cancer Society study of more than one million people who were followed for 15 years," HealthDay (4/16, Dotinga) added. The team discovered that "[t]hose who reported more than 10 years of exposure to formaldehyde were almost four times more likely to develop ALS." While "the findings don’t confirm a cause-and-effect relationship," the "pungent chemical has already been linked to higher rates of lung cancer and leukemia," the researchers noted.

Death by Blogging, a new Diagnosis

SAN FRANCISCO — They work long hours, often to exhaustion. Many are paid by the piece — not garments, but blog posts. This is the digital-era sweatshop. You may know it by a different name: home.

A growing work force of home-office laborers and entrepreneurs, armed with computers and smartphones and wired to the hilt, are toiling under great physical and emotional stress created by the around-the-clock Internet economy that demands a constant stream of news and comment.

Of course, the bloggers can work elsewhere, and they profess a love of the nonstop action and perhaps the chance to create a global media outlet without a major up-front investment. At the same time, some are starting to wonder if something has gone very wrong. In the last few months, two among their ranks have died suddenly.

Two weeks ago in North Lauderdale, Fla., funeral services were held for Russell Shaw, a prolific blogger on technology subjects who died at 60 of a heart attack. In December, another tech blogger, Marc Orchant, died at 50 of a massive coronary. A third, Om Malik, 41, survived a heart attack in December.

Other bloggers complain of weight loss or gain, sleep disorders, exhaustion and other maladies born of the nonstop strain of producing for a news and information cycle that is as always-on as the Internet.

To be sure, there is no official diagnosis of death by blogging, and the premature demise of two people obviously does not qualify as an epidemic. There is also no certainty that the stress of the work contributed to their deaths. But friends and family of the deceased, and fellow information workers, say those deaths have them thinking about the dangers of their work style.

Category: Pathology News

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