New research from scientists in Sweden has looked at whether exposure to organic solvents such as industrial paint and varnish increases the risk of MS.
They asked 2042 people with MS and 2947 without MS about their exposure to organic solvents over many years and found that in this group, exposure to solvents increased the risk of developing MS by 50%. Several genetic and environmental exposures are already established as MS risk factors, including particular HLA genes and smoking. Risk factors are anything or any exposure that increases the likelihood of developing MS, but they are not the direct or only cause of MS.
This study found that if people had the combination of solvent exposure, HLA risk genes and were smokers, they had a 30 fold increase in their risk of MS. While further research is needed to confirm this finding in a larger sample, the authors propose that the common thread here might be irritation to the lungs, through inhalation of solvents or smoking that leads to an immune reaction that triggers MS.
More information about this study can be found in the open access paper here.