People in regular contact with chemical solvents at increased risk of MS, study shows

New research has revealed that the use of chemical solvents, such as those used by decorators and cleaners, could increase the risk of developing multiple sclerosis.

In a groundbreaking new study, researchers said rates of the disease are “as much as 50 per cent higher” in people whose jobs involve regular contact with chemicals.

The study, published by the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, lists ‘at-risk’ professions as cleaners, beauticians, decorators and any others who regularly come into contact with solvents such as paint thinners and cleaning products.

It found that the risk of developing multiple sclerosis, a condition which can affect the brain and spinal cord, is seven times higher in people working in these high-risk jobs.

Furthermore, those who smoke and work in a high-risk profession are up to 30 times more likely to develop the condition compared to the general population.

The symptoms of multiple sclerosis include fatigue, difficulty walking, vision problems, problems controlling the bladder, numbness or tingling in parts of the body, muscle stiffness and problems with motor control or cognitive function.

The latest data suggests that around 100,000 people are diagnosed with the lifelong condition in the UK.

The exact causes of multiple sclerosis are unclear, however experts believe a combination of genetic and environmental factors are involved.

Study author, Dr Anna Hedström, said: “It’s possible that exposure to solvents and smoking may both involve lung inflammation and irritation that leads to an immune reaction in the lungs.

“These are significant interactions where the factors have a much greater effect in combination than they do on their own.”

Dr Gabriele DeLuca, an autoimmune disease expert, warned the public to avoid cigarette smoke and unnecessary exposure to solvents where possible.

“Avoidance of cigarette smoke and unnecessary exposure to organic solvents, particularly in combination, would appear reasonable lifestyle modifications to reduce the risk of MS, especially in those with a family history of the disease,” she said.