OBJECTIVES: The possibility of an association between exposure to silica and autoimmune diseases has recently come under discussion. In the following case-referent study, a cohort exposed to diatomaceous earth and cristobalite provided an opportunity to evaluate such an exposure with reference to sarcoidosis. METHODS: The inhabitants of a district served by a single healthcare centre and a hospital formed the study base. A diatomaceous earth plant is located in this community and the medical institutions are responsible for primary and secondary health care of the population. Cases of sarcoidosis were identified from the hospital records according to certain clinical, radiological, and histological criteria. Referents were selected randomly from the population of the district. Information on exposure to crystalline silica, cristobalite, was obtained by record linkage of the cases and referents with a file which included all present and past workers at the diatomaceous earth plant and those who had worked at loading vessels with the product from the plant. RESULTS: Eight cases of sarcoidosis were found, six of which were in the exposed group. Of the 70 referents, 13 were exposed. The odds ratio (95% confidence interval) was 13.2 (2.0 to 140.9). CONCLUSION: The odds ratios were high and there were some indications of a dose-response relation which will hopefully encourage further studies. To our knowledge this is the first study to indicate a relation between sarcoidosis and exposure to the crystalline silica, cristobalite.
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