Silica exposure is associated with increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis: results from the Swedish EIRA study

Ann Rheum Dis. 2005 Apr;64(4):582-6. doi: 10.1136/ard.2004.022053. Epub 2004 Aug 19.


Objective: To study the association between silica exposure and rheumatoid arthritis and how it is modified by cigarette smoking.

Methods: Data were analysed from 276 male cases and 276 male controls aged 18 to 70 years, included in a Swedish population based study between May 1996 and June 2001. A case was defined as a person recently diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis according to the ACR criteria. Controls were selected from the study base as a stratified random sample accounting for age, sex, and residency. Men with a self reported history of work with rock drilling, stone crushing, or exposure to stone dust in general were defined as silica exposed. Rheumatoid factor (RF) status among cases was recorded.

Results: Silica exposed men had increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis, with an odds ratio (OR), adjusted for age, residential area, and smoking, of 2.2 (95% confidence interval, 1.2 to 3.9) among men aged 18 to 70 years, and 2.7 (1.2 to 5.8) among those aged 50 to 70 years. Men who had worked with rock drilling or stone crushing (regarded as highly exposed) had a slightly greater increase in risk of rheumatoid arthritis than silica exposed men in general, with an OR of 3.0 (1.2 to 7.6). The joint effects of silica exposure and smoking were compatible with synergy between these two exposures in the development of rheumatoid arthritis but this was not conclusive.

Conclusions: Silica exposure is associated with increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. This association is not explained by smoking habits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / epidemiology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / etiology*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Dust
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Odds Ratio
  • Rheumatoid Factor / blood
  • Risk Assessment
  • Silicon Dioxide / toxicity*
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Sweden / epidemiology


  • Biomarkers
  • Dust
  • Silicon Dioxide
  • Rheumatoid Factor