Exposure to particulate matter air pollution and risk of multiple sclerosis in two large cohorts of US nurses

N. Palacios, K. L. Munger, K. C. Fitzgerald, J. E. Hart, T. Chitnis, A. Ascherio, F. Laden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Background Air pollution is thought to raise the risk of neurological disease by promoting neuroinflammation, oxidative stress, glial activation and cerebrovascular damage. Multiple Sclerosis is a common auto-immune disorder, primarily affecting young women. We conducted, to a large prospective study of particulate matter (PM) exposure and multiple sclerosis (MS) risk in two prospective cohorts of women: the Nurses Health Study (NHS) and the Nurses Health Study II (NHS II). Methods Cumulative average exposure to different size fractions of PM up to the onset of MS was estimated using spatio-temporal models. We used multivariable Cox proportional hazards models to estimate the hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) of MS associated with each size fraction of PM independently. Participants were followed from 1998 through 2004 in NHS and from 1988 through 2007 for NHS II. We conducted additional sensitivity analyses stratified by smoking, region of the US, and age, as well as analyses restricted to women who did not move during the study. Analyses were adjusted for age, ancestry, smoking, body mass index at age 18, region, tract level population density, latitude at age 15, and UV index. Results We did not observe significant associations between air pollution and MS risk in our cohorts. Among women in the NHS II, the HRs comparing the top vs. bottom quintiles of PM was 1.11 (95% Confidence Intervals (CI): 0.74, 1.66), 1.04 (95% CI: 0.73, 1.50) and 1.09 (95% CI: 0.73, 1.62) for PM10 (≤ 10 μm in diameter), PM2.5 (≤ 2.5 μm in diameter), and PM2.5–10 (2.5 to 10 μm in diameter) respectively, and tests for linear trends were not statistically significant. No association between exposure to PM and risk of MS was observed in the NHS. Conclusions In this study, exposure to PM air pollution was not related to MS risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-72
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironment international
StatePublished - 2017


  • Cohort studies
  • Epidemiology
  • Incidence studies
  • Parkinson disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)


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