Occupational exposure to textile and animal dust were associated with a higher risk for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), according to study results published in RMD Open.

The researchers conducted a population-based case-control study that included data from 5 patient registries located in Sweden. The study included 12,582 incident patients with RA and 129,335 control patients matched based on sex, age, index year, and geographic origin. The team collected data on occupational exposure to various forms of organic dust, including flour, wood, paper, animal, and textile dusts. In the analysis, unconditional logistic regression was used to measure associations between dust exposure and risk of developing seropositive or seronegative RA.

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After analysis, the researchers found that exposure to textile and animal dust were associated with a higher risk for RA among both men and women in the cohort.

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With respect to animal dust exposure, there was a 1.2- (95% CI, 1.1-1.4) and 1.3-fold (95% CI, 1.1-1.5) greater risk for seropositive and seronegative RA, respectively, for those ever exposed compared with those never exposed.

With respect to textile dust exposure, the team found a significant dose-response relationship for seropositive RA (P for trend =.014).

“Use of protective equipment and good workplace routines can affect exposure levels,” the researchers wrote.

One key limitation of the analysis was the nonrandomized study design.

“Our observation that animal dust and textile dust are associated with increased risk of RA provide further support to the notion of the involvement of the lung in the etiology of RA,” they concluded.


Ilar A, Gustavsson P, Wiebert P, Alfredsson L. Occupational exposure to organic dusts and risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis: findings from a Swedish population-based case-control study. RMD Open. 2019;5(2):e001049.