Workplace Solvent Linked to Immune System Disorders

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Workplace Solvent Linked to Immune System Disorders

Postby Houdini » Tue May 31, 2005 6:24 pm

Read this article and it made me wonder. . .

MONDAY, May 30 (HealthDay News) -- The industrial solvent trichloroethylene (TCE) may cause immune system changes in workers exposed to the chemical, Italian researchers conclude.

The study found that workers exposed to TCE showed significant changes in the normal balance of immune system regulators called cytokines. The finding could explain previous research that found that workers exposed to TCE had increased rates of autoimmune disorders.

TCE is a solvent and degreaser widely used to clean metal parts.

The study included 35 printing plant workers exposed to TCE through degreasing processes, 30 plant workers without direct exposure to TCE and 40 unexposed office workers. The findings are reported in the May issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Workers exposed to TCE had higher than average levels of a TCE metabolite in their urine compared with nonexposed workers, the researchers report.

The TCE-exposed workers also showed significant changes in the normal balance of cytokines. They had higher than normal levels of type 1 cytokines and reduced levels of type 2 cytokines.

Normally, there is a balance between type 1 and type 2 cytokines. Elevated levels of type 1 cytokines can lead to the development of autoimmune disorders, in which the immune system attacks the body's own tissues.

The researchers, led by Dr. Ivo Iavicoli of Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Rome, stressed that their research doesn't prove that on-the-job exposure to TCE causes autoimmune disorders. However, it does offer strong evidence that relatively low-level TCE exposure can alter the immune system in specific ways.

More research is required to clarify exactly how TCE affects the immune system and the possible health effects, the study authors said.
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Re: Workplace Solvent Linked to Immune System Disorders

Postby NHE » Thu Jun 02, 2005 4:47 am

Houdini wrote:Read this article and it made me wonder. . .

Yes, it makes me wonder as well. I spent ten years in the automotive repair industry. For the first two of those years I worked cleaning engine and transmission parts and had my ungloved hands in solvent (including carburetor and brake cleaner) nearly every day. I eventually started wearing gloves due to slow healing sores that would develop on my hands. These never reoccurred afterwards.

I also wonder about other events that may have increased my risk factor for MS. For example, I once hit the side of my wrist with a hatchet while chopping firewood. While getting stitches, the doctor noted that I had sliced clean through one of the large nerves in that area. As a result I experienced neuropathy in my hand for many months afterwards. More relevant though is that I think this may have been a negative exposure of myelin to my immune system, i.e., the introduction of bacteria from the hatchet blade combined with the myelin may have triggered the production of some auto-reactive T cells. It's just something I wonder about.

Another thing I wonder about is garlic and its potential to be an increased risk factor for MS. For many years I ate quite a bit of garlic. When I was diagnosed, my doctor asked if I was taking anything to boost my immune system and I mentioned that I ate a lot of garlic. However, he didn't think that this was relevant. I've since greatly reduced my intake of garlic due to reports on PubMed that suggest that it can enhance cellular based immunity. What's interesting though is that some papers indicate that garlic promotes a Th1 response while others indicate that it promotes a Th2 response. It could be that the response is dependent on the specific system or that the jury is still out on garlic.

Any thoughts on these or other potential risk factors are welcomed.

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