Pollution as a Risk Factor for MS


I suspect I will be deluged by people telling me how they had the cleanest air on the island and they got MS. I suspect there are not many steel works on the outer hebrides, apart from a few Iron-Age settlements.

Air pollution, a possible risk factor for multiple sclerosis. Türk Börü Ü, Bölük C, Taşdemir M, Gezer T, Serim VA. Acta Neurol Scand. 2020 Jan 18. doi: 10.1111/ane.13223. [Epub ahead of print]

OBJECTIVE: Studies focusing attention on the effects of environmental pollution on the aetiology of multiple sclerosis (MS) are on the increase. The aim of this study was to determine MS prevalence in a city home to an iron-and-steel factory which causes air pollution.

METHODS: The study was designed as a cross-sectional, population-based, descriptive epidemiologic study. Ereğli city, which has an iron-and-steel factory and proven air pollution, was screened. Additionally, Devrek city, which is a rural and clean city, located 40 km away from Ereğli, was assigned and results were compared. A validated questionnaire was used for screening. McDonald 2010 criteria was used to diagnose cases.

RESULTS: 32,261 people were screened in Ereğli and 21,963 people were screened in Devrek. In total, 41 patients were diagnosed with clinical definite MS. Crude prevalence was found to be 96.1/100,000 in Ereğli and 45.5/100,000 in Devrek. The mean age of patients was 39.8 and the female/male ratio was 1.9.

CONCLUSION:The results of this study indicate a more than double MS prevalence rate in the area home to an iron-and-steel factory when compared to the rural city. This supports the hypothesis that air pollution may be a possible aetiological factor in MS.

I guess where do you stop in linking cause and effect? Is there an epidemic of MS in London as the ait quality is shocking or if you looked at another trait like riding a bike as you ride when the air is clean, and what is it about an iron and steel factory…is there an MS problem in Sheffield…are they still making steel anymore:-(

However this is just another difficult to prove one as with all risk factors

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  • Or is there going to be an increase in the incidence of MS over the next few years in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne (and other Australian east coast towns) where air pollution levels on many days have been higher than China and India from the bushfires?

  • As smoking is a risk factor I would certainly expect pollution to be one too.

    I grew up in Christchurch NZ where there is high pollution in winter due to a cloud inversion layer trapping pollution in. Now I live in London and for years lived near the most polluted intersection in London!

  • How many people ended up with MS after the “pea-souper” fogs London used to get then?

    Pea soup fog
    Pea soup fog is a very thick and often yellowish, greenish or blackish fog caused by air pollution that contains soot particulates and the poisonous gas sulphur dioxide

  • Definitely an interesting one. I grew up under the arrivals flight path for a ‘London’ airport (and still live nearby). In my parent’s street, I’m aware of at least 4 PwMS including myself, from ~70 households, plus numerous other illnesses. I’ve long subconsciously blamed the aircraft for playing a role in my condition – but as you note, proving a definitive link is something very different.

  • I believe it. MS was added to the “list” of world trade center diseases people were diagnosed with. (9/11 aftermath).

  • Makes me wonder since I´ve mowed with a diesel tractor for a long time even though I live in the clean country air. Sigh. Got dx´d late in life- 49? Had been mowing for about 10 years with that mower and gasoline ones.

  • Maybe the stomachs of MS patients should also be analysed even when they are alive through biopsies in order to see how healthy their gut is which may also get polluted by the pollutants in our food

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