Dose-related subclinical neurobehavioral effects of chronic exposure to low levels of organic solvents

Authors

  • Dr. Margit L. Bleecker MD, PhD,

    Corresponding author
    1. Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Department of Neurology, Francis Scott Key Medical Center, Baltimore
    2. Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Division of Occupational Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health, Baltimore
    • Department of Neurology, Francis Scott Key Medical Center, 4940 Eastern Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21224
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  • Karen I. Bolla PhD,

    1. Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Department of Neurology, Francis Scott Key Medical Center, Baltimore
    2. Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore
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  • Jacqueline Agnew PhD,

    1. Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Division of Occupational Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health, Baltimore
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  • Brian S. Schwartz MD, MS,

    1. Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Division of Occupational Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health, Baltimore
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  • D. Patrick Ford MD, MPH

    1. Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Division of Occupational Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health, Baltimore
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Abstract

One hundred eight-seven workers (mean age ± SD; 42 ± 8.8 years) in two paint manufacturing plants were examined to determine if sustained low-level exposure to mixed organic solvents resulted in the painters' syndrome (a psycho-organic syndrome). The test battery consisted of a medical and occupational questionnaire, the Present State Examination, the Zung Depression Scale, the Scandinavian Questionnaire 16, a neu-ropsychological battery, and vibration thresholds. Solvent exposure, expressed as total hydrocarbon of combined selected solvents, was quantitated using 13–15 years of personal breathing zone samplings. Linear regression analysis controlling for several confounding variables demonstrated significant correlations between increasing exposure to mixed organic solvents and neurobehavioral performance for vibration threshold and several neuropsychological tests. Dose-related effects of chronic solvent exposure on neurobehavioral outcomes (all subclinical) were shown, but “typical” symptoms characteristic of the painter's syndrome were not found.

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