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Vibration at work risks disability in men

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Vibration at work among men has been implicated in causing a major form of work disability in a study of Swedish patients. Known links between rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and other environmental factors at work, like mineral and organic dusts, were also confirmed.

Men were more at risk if they had been exposed to vibration, asphalt, asbestos, and organic and mineral dusts. Likelihood of RA increased with longer exposures to vibration (odds ratio (OR) 2.0 at 11–20 years and 2.5 at >20 years) and mineral (stone or silica) dust (OR 2.3, 2.6, respectively) when data from this study and its forerunner by the same researchers were pooled. The risk was highest among conductors, freight workers, and transport workers in current and pooled data and significantly raised in farmers and farm workers and pulp and paper workers, as seen before by others.

In the prospective case-referent study men and women with recently diagnosed RA from 10 rheumatology units over 27 months were each compared for demographic profile and lifetime working occupations and exposures with four referents who were free of RA and randomly selected from the same catchment area. All 293 patients were Nordic, aged 16–75 years, and 1346 referents were included. Data were collected from each by a postal questionnaire.

This follow up investigation confirmed a previous, stratified, case-referent study by the same researchers suggesting new links between RA and work environment. Links between RA and working conditions, especially inhalation of chemicals and particulates are already well recognised.