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Am J Ind Med. 1995 Feb;27(2):231-46.

Comparison of neurobehavioral function in workers exposed to a mixture of organic and inorganic lead and in workers exposed to solvents.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA.


The neurobehavioral effects of lead (organic and inorganic) and organic solvents were compared in 386 U.S. workers (52 reference, 190 lead, and 144 solvent workers). The association between neurobehavioral test performance and duration of exposure to lead or solvents was also examined and compared. The neurobehavioral test battery consisted of examiner and computer-administered neurobehavioral tests, a test of olfactory function, and questionnaires that assessed neuropsychiatric symptoms. Adjusted mean differences on the neurobehavioral test scores were estimated by comparing the exposed group to the referent group using linear regression and adjusting for premorbid intellectual ability, age, and race. Both lead and solvents were associated with diminished neurobehavioral performance in all neurobehavioral areas tested. Specifically, while lead and solvent exposure had the same magnitude of adverse effects on tests of manual dexterity, lead exposure was associated with greater adverse effects on memory and learning tests but with less adverse effects on executive/motor tests and on a test of olfaction than solvent exposure. An elevated number of neuropsychiatric symptoms was reported by 7% of the referent group, 43% of the lead group, and 15% of the solvent group. For exposure duration of < or = 10 years, more neurobehavioral decrements were found in the solvent group relative to the lead group. However, for exposure duration of > or = 18 years, the lead group showed more decrements than the solvent group. Overall, these data suggest differences in neurobehavioral functioning between the lead (organic and inorganic) and solvent exposed workers examined in this study.

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