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Environ Health Perspect. 2016 Apr;124(4):426-36. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1409345. Epub 2015 Aug 7.

Associations Between Selected Xenobiotics and Antinuclear Antibodies in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999-2004.

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Biostatistics Center, Social & Scientific Systems, Inc., Durham, North Carolina, USA.



Potential associations between background environmental chemical exposures and autoimmunity are understudied.


Our exploratory study investigated exposure to individual environmental chemicals and selected mixtures in relation to the presence of antinuclear antibodies (ANA), a widely used biomarker of autoimmunity, in a representative sample of the U.S.


This cross-sectional analysis used data on 4,340 participants from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1999-2004), of whom 14% were ANA positive, to explore associations between ANA and concentrations of dioxins, dibenzofurans, polychlorinated biphenyls, organochlorines, organophosphates, phenols, metals, and other environmental exposures and metabolites measured in participants' serum, whole blood, or urine. For dioxin-like compounds with toxic equivalency factors, we developed and applied a new statistical approach to study selected mixtures. Lognormal models and censored-data methods produced estimates of chemical associations with ANA in males, nulliparous females, and parous females; these estimates were adjusted for confounders and accommodated concentrations below detectable levels.


Several associations between chemical concentration and ANA positivity were observed, but only the association in males exposed to triclosan remained statistically significant after correcting for multiple comparisons (mean concentration ratio = 2.8; 95% CI: 1.8, 4.5; p < 0.00001).


These data suggest that background levels of most xenobiotic exposures typical in the U.S. population are not strongly associated with ANA. Future studies should ideally reduce exposure misclassification by including prospective measurement of the chemicals of concern and should track changes in ANA and other autoantibodies over time.


Dinse GE, Jusko TA, Whitt IZ, Co CA, Parks CG, Satoh M, Chan EKL, Rose KM, Walker NJ, Birnbaum LS, Zeldin DC, Weinberg CR, Miller FW. 2016. Associations between selected xenobiotics and antinuclear antibodies in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999-2004. Environ Health Perspect 124:426-436;

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