Air pollution as a potential contributor to the ‘epidemic’ of autoimmune disease
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There has been remarkable progress over the past 20 years in pushing forward our understanding of many facets of autoimmune disease. Indeed, knowledge of the genetic basis of autoimmunity and the molecular and cellular pathways involved in its pathogenesis has reached an unprecedented level. Yet this knowledge has not served to prevent autoimmune disease nor to curtail the dramatic rise in its incidence over the same interval. Population-level genetic changes cannot explain this trend; thus, environmental factors are strongly implicated. Among the possible environmental contributors to autoimmune disease, air pollution exposure has received very little attention. Although there is only a small amount of published data directly examining a possible causal relationship between air pollution exposure and autoimmunity, data from related fields suggests that it could facilitate autoimmunity as well. If correct, this hypothesis could prove to have sizeable public health implications.
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