January 21, 2023

Study Explores Potential Association Between Occupational Inhalants and Rheumatoid Arthritis

The Annals of Rheumatic Diseases recently published a new study that explores the association between occupational inhalants and an increased risk in developing rheumatoid arthritis.

The study compared 4,033 rheumatoid arthritis cases and 6,485 control cases, retrieving occupational histories to compare exposure to 32 inhalable agents. The cases pulled involved individuals of various ages across various industries. The study found that occupational inhalable agents were associated with a much higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, particularly if individuals had a genetic predisposition and/or if the individual smoked.

Inhalable agents can include gases, vapors, and solvents. This can be from substances such as asbestos, diesel, gasoline, fungicide, and other workplace chemicals, highlighting the need for occupational respiratory protections.

More clinical research is necessary to directly prove that such workplace inhalable agents can cause, exacerbate, or contribute to the development of rheumatoid arthritis, making it an area of study that workers’ comp payers should monitor for further development.

An autoimmune disease characterized by severe joint pain and inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis can develop or be exacerbated by cumulative or acute trauma or an occupational injury.

One major area to note is that the study saw greater risks for rheumatoid arthritis among individuals with genetic predisposition and those who smoked. While little can be done for those with genetic predisposition, smoking adds significant complexity to any claim and understanding strategies to address smoking can do much to help across all claims.

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