HealthDay News — Long-term exposure to air pollution is associated with an increased risk for developing autoimmune disease, according to a study published online March 15 in RMD Open.

Giovanni Adami, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Verona in Italy, and colleagues conducted a retrospective observational study on a nationwide dataset of women and men to examine the association between long-term exposure to air pollution (particulate matter [PM] 10 and 2.5 concentrations] and the risk for developing immune-mediated conditions. Data were included for 81,363 individuals.

The researchers identified a positive association between PM₁₀ and the risk for autoimmune diseases, with an incremental 7 percent risk for having autoimmune disease for every 10 µg/m3 increase in PM₁₀ concentration. Exposure to PM₁₀ >30 µg/m3 and PM₂.₅ >20 µg/m3 was associated with a significantly increased risk for autoimmune disease (adjusted odds ratios, 1.12 and 1.13, respectively). PM₁₀ exposure was associated with an elevated risk for rheumatoid arthritis, while increased risks for rheumatoid arthritis, connective tissue diseases (CTDs), and inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) were seen in association with exposure to PM₂.₅.

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“We found that the exposure to fine PMs was associated with an increased risk of some autoimmune diseases,” the authors write. “Chronic exposure to traffic and industrial derived pollutants was associated with approximately 40 percent higher risk of rheumatoid arthritis, 20 percent higher risk of IBDs, and 15 percent higher risk of CTDs.”

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