Exposure to paint, varnish and other solvents is associated with a 50% higher risk of multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a study by the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.
People with exposure to solvents, who also carry the genes that make them more susceptible to MS, are nearly seven times more likely to develop the disease as people with no solvent exposure who do not carry the MS genes.
For people who have been smokers, the risk is even greater. Those who have been smoking with solvent exposure and the MS genes are 30 times more likely to develop MS than those who have never smoked or been exposed to solvents and who do not have the genetic risk factors. “These are significant interactions where the factors have a much greater effect in combination than they do on their own,” said study author Anna Hedstrom, adding that more research is needed to understand how these factors interact to create this risk. “It’s possible that exposure to solvents and smoking may both involve lung inflammation and irritation that leads to an immune reaction in the lungs.”
The researchers advise, that in the meantime, avoiding cigarette smoke and unnecessary exposure to organic solvents are good ways to reduce the risk of MS, especially in people with a family history of the disease. The study appears in the journal Neurology.