Some jobs bring increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis

 
By Doug Bennett • Published: November 21st, 2017
Category: Health in a Heartbeat
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If you’re a bricklayer or concrete worker, your job might be making you sick. A study of men in those fields showed they have an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis through exposure to noxious airborne particles.

The odds of developing the blood-borne protein antibodies associated with rheumatoid arthritis were nearly tripled among bricklayers and concrete workers, Swedish researchers reported. They also found elevated risks in other occupations, including electronics workers and material handlers.

Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the joints, causing inflammation and painful swelling. Cartilage can be lost, sometimes leading to unstable and less mobile joints. It arises from a complex mix of genetics, immunity and environmental exposures.

The researchers analyzed data collected from more than 9,000 Swedes for 18 years, including information about their jobs and lifestyle factors, such as body mass index and tobacco use.

Among men, researchers noted, the fields of concrete work, bricklaying and electronics work carried an increased risk of RA even after other environmental and lifestyle factors were considered. For bricklayers and concrete workers, exposure to airborne silica is an occupational risk, while electrical workers can come into contact with silica and asbestos, which was once used in wiring insulation.

The researchers believe that work-related toxins may promote RA by interacting with certain receptors in the lungs or triggering cells that provoke an autoimmune response.

Understanding what triggers rheumatoid arthritis is crucial to preventing the disease.