Organic dust exposure can influence the development and symptoms of immune-related diseases such as atopy and asthma, but has rarely been examined in relation to systemic autoimmunity. The present analyses explore the association of lifetime farm and occupational organic dust exposures with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in recently diagnosed patients (n = 265) compared with controls (n = 355) frequency matched by age, sex and state. Questionnaire data included childhood farm residence, childhood and adult experience with specific crops, and adult work in textiles, hog or poultry processing and paper or furniture manufacture. Adjusted odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were estimated by logistic regression models including age, sex, state, race, education and silica exposure. Overall childhood or adult farm contact and childhood farm residence were not associated with SLE. Farm contact with livestock was inversely associated with SLE (OR = 0.55, 95% CI 0.35, 0.88). This effect was most pronounced among those with childhood farm residence and both childhood and adult livestock exposure (OR = 0.19; 95% CI 0.06, 0.63), but was difficult to separate from adult exposure to grains or corn. Other adult occupational exposures were not associated with SLE risk overall, regardless of childhood farm residence or livestock exposure, although an inverse association was seen among non-smokers (OR = 0.59; 95% CI 0.33, 1.1), particularly for textile work (OR = 0.34; 95% CI 0.19, 0.64). These exploratory findings support the development of studies to specifically investigate the effects of organic dust exposure on SLE risk, with particular attention to exposure assessment and characterization of demographics, smoking and other occupational exposures.
Christine G Parks, PhD, Epidemiology Branch, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, PO Box 12233, Research Triangle Park, Durham, NC 27709, USA