NIEHS epidemiologist Christine Parks, Ph.D., spoke to employees and guests May 27 on “Autoimmune diseases: What we know (and don’t know) about environmental risk factors and why we care.” Parks’ presentation addressed current knowledge surrounding environmental risk factors for the nearly 80 autoimmune diseases that affect five to eight percent of the population. She also examined why people should care about these risk factors and the impact of these chronic and incurable diseases on the workplace.
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What I have to say: In 2007 or so a few of the patients in our circle wanted to know if anyone knew or suspected the triggers for their disease. Many of the patients were certain that their autoimmune disease was triggered by workplace conditions i.e. sick buildings, asbestos, organic solvents, etc. Some of the patients told stories of other adults developing other autoimmune diseases while working in the same places.
At the time the researchers were more interested in the genetic causes than the environmental causes. Finally someone is looking into the other half of the situation. Yes, we do have a gene that turns on, but is it something we have or is it something that is turned on by an environmental or industrial risk? In my mind, that is the question.