Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis incidence following exposure to inorganic selenium in drinking water: A long-term follow-up

Marco Vinceti, Tommaso Filippini, Carlotta Malagoli, Federica Violi, Jessica Mandrioli, Dario Consonni, Kenneth J. Rothman, Lauren A. Wise

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Some studies have reported an association between overexposure to selenium and risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a rare degenerative disease of motor neurons. From 1986 through 2015, we followed a cohort in Northern Italy that had been inadvertently consuming tap water with unusually high concentrations of inorganic hexavalent selenium from 1974 to 1985. We had previously documented an excess incidence of ALS in this cohort during 1986–1994. Here, we report extended follow-up of the cohort for an additional 21 years, encompassing 50,100 person-years of the exposed cohort and 2,233,963 person-years of the unexposed municipal cohort. We identified 7 and 112 incident ALS cases in the exposed and unexposed cohorts, respectively, yielding crude incidence rates of 14 and 5 cases per 100,000 person-years. A Poisson regression analysis, adjusting for age, sex and calendar year, produced an overall incidence rate ratio (IRR) for ALS of 2.8 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.3, 6), with a substantially stronger IRR in 1986–1994 (8.2, 95% CI 2.7, 24.7) than in 1995–2015 (1.5, 95% CI 0.5, 4.7), and among women (5.1, 95% CI 1.8, 14.3) than men (1.7, 95% CI 0.5, 5.4). Overall, these results indicate an association between high exposure to inorganic selenium, a recognized neurotoxicant, and ALS incidence, with declining rates after cessation of exposure and stronger effects among women.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108742
JournalEnvironmental Research
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2019


  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Cohort study
  • Drinking water
  • Incidence
  • Selenium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)


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