Chemicals in Paint, Varnish, Solvents Linked to MS

A new scientific study has revealed an important variable linked to multiple sclerosis (MS):  exposure to chemicals in paint, varnish and solvents.  People who have been exposed to certain chemicals in paint, varnish and other solvents and who also carry genes that make them more susceptible to developing multiple sclerosis may be at much greater risk of developing the disease than people who have only the exposure to solvent/paint chemicals or the MS genes, according to a new study.

What is still needed is future research to uncover specifics about exposure to these chemicals.  In other words, how much exposure (is a single day of painting the living room enough to trigger MS if one carries the genetic predisposition? etc.); what conditions surrounding the exposure increases risk (is leaving paint/varnish/solvent chemicals on the hands for a few hours enough to trigger this serious health condition? does using paint/varnish/solvent without the windows open/fresh air flow–in other words, breathing vapors for an extended period of time–connected to increased risk for triggering MS?, does working at Home Depot’s paint department increase a predisposed person’s risk? etc.); when is the critical period of exposure (does exposure during childhood or adolescence create a higher risk? or in one’s twenties? does having a specific illness that taxes the immune system (like the flu) just prior to exposure to these chemicals increase risk for triggering MS, etc.); what lifestyle factors mediate the risk (we already know that smoking can increase the risk, but role does diet play? or prolonged stress? etc.). We look forward to future scientific studies that seek to answer these and other key questions about the potential link between paint/varnish/solvent household chemicals and MS.

Overview of study findings

People with exposure to paint or other solvents are 50 percent more likely to develop MS than people with no exposure. People with exposure to solvents who also carry the genes that make them more susceptible to MS are nearly seven times as likely to develop the disease as people with no solvent exposure who do not carry the MS genes.

For people who have been smokers, the risk is even greater. Those who have been smokers with solvent exposure and the MS genes are 30 times more likely to develop MS than those who have never smoked or been exposed to solvents and who do not have the genetic risk factors.

The researchers determined that the MS genes and exposure to solvents combined were responsible for an estimated 60 percent of the risk of developing MS.


Journal Reference:  Anna Karin Hedström, Ola Hössjer, Michail Katsoulis, Ingrid Kockum, Tomas Olsson, Lars Alfredsson. Organic solvents and MS susceptibility Interaction with MS risk HLA genes. Neurology, 2018 DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000005906

Source: Exposure to paint, varnish, other solvents linked to increased risk of MS