We evaluated 74 selected patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and 201 matched controls for risk factors for ALS by a case-control design and a sequential questionnaire/interview technique to quantitate biographic data. We analyzed occupational and recreational data only for 47 male patients and 47 corresponding patient controls; data for women were insufficient. We used nonparametric analyses to evaluate five primary comparisons of ALS patients with controls: (1) more hard physical labor, p not significant (NS); (2) greater frequency of neurodegenerative disease in family members, p NS; (3) greater exposure to lead, p <0.05; (4) more years lived in a rural community, p NS; and (5) more trauma or major surgery, p NS. Men with ALS had worked more frequently at blue-collar jobs (although not a statistically significant difference, p = 0.10) and at welding or soldering (p <0.01). These results suggest that there may be an association between ALS in men and exposure to lead vapor. The limited nature of the association favors a multifactorial etiologic mechanism of ALS.