Environmental risk factors, from exposure to sunlight to commonplace toxins and chemicals, are known to have some link to lupus, though much about how the environment triggers or influences the disease remains unclear. Now, new research adds to the evidence that air pollution may have a real impact on childhood-onset lupus by worsening inflammation.

While short-term, localized inflammation is beneficial, helping wounds to heal and protecting the body against infection, it can be damaging when it occurs in healthy tissue or lasts too long. In children and adults with lupus, the disease is characterized by inflammation of multiple organs or organ systems in the body.

In the latest study, researchers assessed real-time exposure to air pollutants and measured markers of inflammation in the blood samples of those with childhood-onset lupus. The air pollutants studied included fine particles (tiny droplets in the air that can travel deeply into the respiratory tract) and nitrogen dioxide (an air pollutant that forms when fossil fuels such as coal, oil, gas or diesel are burned at high temperatures). Researchers found that exposure to the fine particles – though not nitrogen dioxide – was associated with increases in several different markers of inflammation.

These findings continue to show that one’s physical environment can play a role in lupus activity, and more research is needed to fully understand how exposure to air pollutants and other toxins or chemicals affect the disease. Learn more about understanding lupus environmental triggers.

Read the Study