Although genetic susceptibility plays a strong role in the etiology of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), recent research has provided new evidence of the potential influence of environmental factors in the risk for this disease. This paper describes epidemiologic and experimental research pertaining to occupational and environmental sources of exposure to respirable crystalline silica, solvents and pesticides, and two "lifestyle" factors (smoking and hair dye use). As has been seen with other systemic autoimmune diseases (eg, systemic sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis), a series of epidemiologic studies, using different designs in different settings, have demonstrated relatively strong and consistent associations between occupational silica exposure and SLE. The type and quality of exposure assessment is an important consideration in evaluating these studies. Recent experimental studies examined the effect of trichloroethylene exposure in MRL+/+ mice, but to date there have been few epidemiologic studies of solvents and SLE. There are numerous avenues with respect to environmental factors in SLE that need additional research.