Neurobehavioral effects of acute and chronic mixed-solvent exposure in the screen printing industry

Authors

  • Roberta F. White PhD,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Neurology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA
    2. Department of Environmental Health, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA
    3. Neuropsychology Service, Boston DVA Medical Center, Boston, MA
    • Department of Neurology, Boston University School of Medicine, 80 E. Concord St., Boston, MA 02118
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  • Susan P. Proctor DSc,

    1. Department of Neurology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA
    2. Department of Environmental Health, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA
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  • Diana Echeverria PhD,

    1. Battelle Seattle Research Center, Seattle, WA
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  • Janelle Schweikert PhD,

    1. Department of Neurology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA
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  • Robert G. Feldman MD

    1. Department of Neurology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA
    2. Department of Environmental Health, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA
    3. Department of Neurology, Boston DVA Medical Center, Boston, MA
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Abstract

This 2-year prospective study examined the neurobehavioral effects of acute and chronic exposure to mixed solvents in workers in a screen printing business. A total of 30 subjects participated in the study in two field testings over a 12 month period. Each subject completed a detailed medical and occupational questionnaire, had a neurological examination, and underwent a battery of neuropsychological tests. Industrial hygiene investigation identified the following chemical exposures as present: toluene, methyl ethyl ketone, mineral spirits, β-ether, methylene chloride, and acetic acid. Different departments and jobs had varying degrees of exposure to these chemicals, the highest exposures being in the ink mix area and the screen washroom area. However, all exposure levels were below recommended threshold limit values. Persons categorized as having higher acute exposure demonstrated significantly impaired test performance on tasks involving manual dexterity, visual memory, and mood. Those with higher chronic exposure demonstrated significantly poorer performance on visual memory tasks and mood. Results suggest that the mixed solvents used in the screen printing industy have an effect on central nervous system functioning in the absence of obvious clinical disease.

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