Objectives: To determine whether certain occupations and occupationally related exposures were associated with a history of sarcoidosis in African-American siblings.
Methods: We collected occupational data from 921 African Americans in 273 sibships that had been identified through a sarcoidosis case. Among the 648 siblings of sarcoidosis index cases enrolled, 30 (4.6%) also had a history of sarcoidosis. A detailed job history was obtained for any job held for ≥ 6 months throughout the subject’s life.
Results: Having a usual occupation in education (odds ratio [OR], 2.18; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.07 to 4.44), in metal machining (OR, 7.47; 95% CI, 1.19 to 47.06), and ever working in metalworking, not elsewhere classified (OR, 2.05; 95% CI, 1.14 to 3.70) were associated with increased sarcoidosis risk. Occupations ever held in the transportation services industry (OR, 12.71; 95% CI, 1.32 to 122.56) and usual occupations in the retail trade industry (OR, 0.49; 95% CI, 0.27 to 0.88) also were associated with sarcoidosis risk. Specific occupational exposures that were associated with sarcoidosis included titanium (OR, 3.15; 95% CI, 1.02 to 9.68) and vegetable dust (OR, 1.82; 95% CI, 1.01 to 3.27), and indoor exposure to high humidity (OR, 1.51; 95% CI, 1.13 to 2.02), water damage (OR, 1.50; 95% CI, 1.11 to 2.03), or musty odors (OR, 1.78; 95% CI, 1.32 to 2.40) for > 1 year.
Conclusion: Individuals who work in occupations with potential metal exposures or in workplaces with high humidity may be at an increased risk for sarcoidosis, but the complexity of occupationally related exposures makes it difficult to identify specific agents by using job titles as a surrogate for exposure. A more detailed exposure assessment of such jobs, along with the incorporation of genetic risk factors, should help to uncover the complex etiology of sarcoidosis.