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Scand J Work Environ Health. 2003 Apr;29(2):143-51.

Neurobehavioral effects during experimental exposure to 1-octanol and isopropanol.

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  • 1Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors [Institut für Arbeitsphysiologie an der Universität Dortmund], Dortmund, Germany.



The study examined acute neurobehavioral effects provoked by controlled exposure to 1-octanol and isopropanol among male volunteers.


In a 29-m3 exposure laboratory, 24 male students (mean age 25.8 years) were exposed to 1-octanol and isopropanol. Each substance was used in two concentrations (0.1 and 6.4 ppm for 1-octanol; 34.9 and 189.9 ppm for isopropanol:). In a crossover design, each subject was exposed for 4 hours to the conditions. Twelve subjects reported enhanced chemical sensitivity; the other 12 were age-matched controls. At the onset and end of the exposures neurobehavioral tests were administered and symptoms were rated.


At the end of the high and low isopropanol exposures the tiredness ratings were elevated, but no dose-dependence could be confirmed. For both substances and concentrations, the annoyance ratings increased during the exposure, but only for isopropanol did the increase show a dose-response relation. The subjects reported olfactory symptoms during the exposure to the high isopropanol and both 1-octanol concentrations. Isopropanol provoked no sensory irritation, whereas high 1-octanol exposure slightly enhanced it. Only among the subjects with enhanced chemical sensitivity were both 1-octanol concentrations associated with a stronger increase in annoyance, and lower detection rates were observed in a divided attention task.


Previous studies reporting no neurobehavioral effects for isopropanol (up to 400 ppm) were confirmed. The results obtained for 1-octanol lacked dose-dependency, and their evaluation, is difficult. The annoying odor of 1-octanol may mask sensory irritation and prevent subjects with enhanced chemical sensitivity from concentrating on performance in a demanding task.

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