Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) is an immune mediated chronic cholestatic liver disease with a slowly progressive course It is a universal disease with a reported latitudinal gradient in prevalence and incidence. The aetiology of primary biliary cirrhosis is still unknown. It is characterized by a 60% concordance in monozygotic twins and is considered an autoimmune disease because of several features common to other autoimmune conditions and the relatively homogeneous serological and biochemical features. However geoepidemiological and clinical studies strongly imply that environmental factors also play an important role. It is accepted that the disease is clearly the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Several risk factors have been suggested to be associated with PBC, including exposure to infectious agents and chemical xenobiotics. This review will attempt to place such factors in perspective.