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Keywords:

  • trichloroethylene exposure;
  • neuromotor effect;
  • postural sway;
  • hand tremor;
  • workers

Abstract

Background

Health effects of long-term exposure to organic solvents at low levels are a major concern in industrialized countries. To assess the neuromotor impact of trichloroethylene objectively, static postural sway and hand tremor parameters, along with urinary trichloroethanol (TCOH) and trichloroacetic acid (TCAA) levels, were investigated in 57 workers without obvious neurological disorders and 60 control subjects.

Methods

The workers had been occupationally exposed to trichloroethylene for 0.1–37 years. The cumulative exposure index (CEI) was calculated from their occupational history and total trichloro-compounds (TCOH + TCAA).

Results

Median levels in the workers were 1.7 mg/L for TCOH and 2.5 mg/L for TCAA, and the maximum ambient trichloroethylene concentration was estimated to be <22 ppm from the previously reported equation using TCOH + TCAA. Sway parameters with eyes open and tremor intensity in dominant hand were significantly larger in the exposed workers than in the control subjects when adjusting for possible confounders. A significant dose–effect association was seen between two sway parameters and urinary TCOH level in the workers. Tremor intensities in non-dominant hand differed significantly among three groups of the workers divided according to the CEI.

Conclusions

These findings suggest that trichloroethylene exposure, even at low levels of less than the short-term exposure limit by the ACGIH, can affect the neuromotor function of workers. The postural instability appears to result from recent exposure, and the increased tremor may occur due to short-term and long-term exposures. Hereafter, such objective measures, along with subjective symptoms, should be carefully used for the occupational exposure limit setting. Am. J. Ind. Med. 53:915–921, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.