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Neurotoxicity of solvent mixtures in spray painters. II. Neurologic, psychiatric, psychological, and neuroradiologic findings.

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  • 1Institute and Policlinic of Occupational- and Social Medicine, University of Heidelberg, Germany.


A multidisciplinary cross-sectional study was performed to examine the chronic neurotoxicity of organic solvents. Participating in the study were 105 persons employed as spray painters and having long-term solvent exposure (10-44 years) and a control group consisting of 58 construction workers, electricians, and plumbers without occupational contact to solvents. Samples were matched for age, preexposure intelligence level, occupation, and socioeconomic status. After controlling for potentially non occupational confounding factors (neuropsychiatric diseases, metabolic disorders, high blood pressure, alcohol intake) 83 spray painters and 42 controls were entered finally into the study. The evaluation included work history, self-rating questionnaire, neurologic investigation, psychiatric analysis using the Present State Examination (PSE), psychological testing, and computerized axial tomography (CAT) of the brain. Physical and neurologic examinations demonstrated no case of overt disorders of the central or peripheral nervous system. An important result of the psychiatric analysis was that the syndromes "special features of depression" and "loss of interest and concentration" occurred significantly more frequently among spray painters than among controls. Further analyses demonstrated an association with chronic exposure over 30 years and repeated acute neurotoxic effects during solvent exposures. Neither psychological nor performance tests demonstrated any statistically significant differences in the performance sets after adjustment according to premorbid intelligence level; this finding supports the presumption of only a low grade of mental dysfunction. Correlation analyses indicated a relationship between subjective health complaints and long-term solvent exposure; however, the effect of age cannot be completely ruled out.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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