Polychlorinated Biphenyls and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis or RA is a disease affecting about two million Americans and one of unknown cause. While the disease can be controlled with modern medications in most cases, it is still a disabling illness that is expensive in dollars and cents as well as in human misery. Finding a cause would help in finding ways to prevent this illness as well as possible cures for RA.
Many factors from heredity to diet to the environment have been examined as possible causes of RA with no definitive results. We do know that there is a genetic marker much more common in those who have RA than in the general population, but not all RA patients have it and some people who do have it are not ill at all. It may be that the combination of a gene as well as some other co-factors is needed to cause rheumatoid arthritis to develop.
This would mean paying closer attention to environmental and lifestyle issues that could increase or decrease the presence of RA. Diet has not proven to be a strong positive or negative influence in most controlled studies, but there is some evidence that a vegetarian diet may be beneficial for some patients. Moderate alcohol consumption also seems to be somewhat protective for avoiding RA but alcohol use may be contraindicated in many patients who have the disease.
Environmental considerations must also be taken into account in our polluted modern world and it is here that we find some troubling information about certain chemicals and the development of RA. The culprit is a compound called polychlorinated biphenyls and the cogeners they form in the body. Polychlorinated biphenyls, commonly called PCBs, are found in many common pesticides and are common environmental and industrial contaminants and pollutants. Studies have found a positive correlation with exposure to high levels of PCBs with increased occurrence of RA, especially from women.
Since RA is an autoimmune illness, this is not surprising since PCBs are also known to cause autoimmune thyroiditis. It seems that autoimmune illness increases directly proportionally to the amount of PCB a person encounters and the compounds have even been found in joint and other body fluids. Avoiding exposure can only make sense if one wants to avoid RA and other autoimmune conditions.
While it is plain that PCB exposure is not the only cause of rheumatoid arthritis, it seems very likely that is involved in the genesis of at least some of the cases, and other pollutants may also be identified as co-factors in the development of RA. Avoiding the use of pesticides and other products containing PCBs and avoiding work in that industry would likely be highly advisable to those who are high risk, if not for everyone.
Article on association of polychlorinated biphenyl exposure and RA in women www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/
Condition indistinguishable with RA in PCB
US government Environmental Protection Agency
report on PCBs and arthritis
Autoimmune disease from PCB exposure lib.bioinfo.pl/