Asbestos exposure has long been associated with cancers, fibrosis and other diseases. Based on findings of a recent study researchers say exposure to asbestos may lay the groundwork for future autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
Researchers examined 50 residents from Libby, which is known to be polluted by asbestos. They found these residents were more likely to have a class of autoantibodies known as antinuclear antibodies compared to the control group. ANAs, the researchers explain, are often found in people whose immune systems may be predisposed to cause inflammation against their own body tissue.
ANAs were found almost 29-percent more frequently in the Libby population than in the controls. People who were exposed to asbestos for more than five years also tended to have higher concentrations of ANAs than those with less exposure.
Thus researchers say asbestos exposure poses a significant health risk to humans both occupationally and environmentally, and an awareness of an association with autoimmunity could impact necessary monitoring, testing and treatment regimens for exposed individuals or populations.