Environmental chemicals and autoimmune disease: cause and effect

Toxicology. 2002 Dec 27:181-182:65-70. doi: 10.1016/s0300-483x(02)00256-1.


Many important clues have been provided by the relationship of certain medications to lupus and other autoimmune syndromes. These are temporary conditions that resolve when the medication is removed. There are now over 70 such medications which have been reported related to these autoimmune conditions. Interest continues to grow in the potential for environmental substances to cause these syndromes. Among those under suspicion are hydrazines, tartrazines, hair dyes, trichloroethylene, industrial emissions and hazardous wastes. Other possible associations include silica, mercury, cadmium, gold and L canavanine. Two recognised outbreaks include 'toxic oil syndrome' related to contaminated rape seed oil in Spain in 1981 and exposure to a contaminated environmental substance associated with an autoimmune attack on muscle tissue in 1989. Recently, there have been proposals made for the definition and identification of environmentally associated immune disorders. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also provided recent publications for other environmentally related problems. All these aspects will be presented and reviewed in detail.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmune Diseases / etiology*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / pathology
  • Environmental Pollutants / analysis
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Humans


  • Environmental Pollutants