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Textile dust exposure 'could increase rheumatoid arthritis risk'

Published on 19 January 2016
Textile dust exposure 'could increase rheumatoid arthritis risk'

A new study has indicated that people who work with frequent exposure to textile dust could be at an elevated risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

Led by the Institute for Medical Research in Malaysia, in association with Sweden's Karolinska Institutet, the research looked at data from 910 Malaysian women who had been diagnosed with early-stage rheumatoid arthritis, compared with data from 910 women of similar age without the disease.

The patients were asked if they had ever worked in the textile industry and been exposed to other chemicals and silica dust, factors associated with a heightened risk of rheumatoid arthritis.

Results published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases showed that 4.5 per cent had been exposed to textile dust, compared with only 1.7 per cent of the women who were free of the disease. Those who had been exposed to textile dust were almost three times as likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis as those who had not worked in textiles.

Furthermore, textile dust exposure was associated with a more than doubling in the risk of testing positive for antibodies to rheumatoid arthritis, known as ACPA, which hasten progression of the disease.

Although this was an observational study that did not prove a causal link, it marks the first time these associations have been identified.

The researchers stated: "The association between textile dust and risk of rheumatoid arthritis might involve several potential disease mechanisms, since the differing physiochemical properties of airborne dust affect where it deposits in the respiratory tract.

"From a public health perspective, our results imply that efforts should be considered to reduce the incidence of rheumatoid arthritis by reducing occupational exposure to textile dust."

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