Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a growing concern among older adults. Many known risk factors are associated with RA, but a new study published in the journal Rheumatology suggests a link between air pollution and the condition.
For this study, researchers from the University of Verona, Italy, collected longitudinal data of patients affected by rheumatoid arthritis and daily concentrations of air pollutants in the area. A case-crossover study used this data to examine the correlation between rheumatoid arthritis flares and air pollution. Exposure to pollutants was compared in 30- and 60-day periods preceding an arthritic flare.
A total of 888 rheumatoid arthritis patients were the focus of the study, along with their 3,396 follow-up visits. Researchers were able to identify an exposure-response relationship between air pollution concentration and the risk of having abnormal C reactive protein (CRP) levels.
These CRP levels were increased in patients who were exposed to higher concentrations of air pollutants. It was found that in the 60 days preceding a flare-up, concentrations of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, nitric oxide, oxides of nitrogen, and ozone were much higher.
“The excessive risk was seen even at very low levels of exposure, even below the proposed threshold for the protection of human health,” the authors concluded. “Our study has important and direct consequences. To reduce the burden of RA, public and environmental health policymakers should aim to diminish gaseous and particulate matter emissions to a larger extent than currently recommended.”
It’s unclear whether those with the condition suffer from more symptoms where air pollution is excessive. More research is needed to understand the link between the condition and pollution.
There are many illnesses and diseases that have been linked to air quality, including bone density loss, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. As these conditions continue to rise, it is vital to connect the environmental causes to help reduce the risk.