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Arch Environ Health. 1991 Jan-Feb;46(1):16-24.

Electroencephalographic findings during experimental human exposure to m-xylene.

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Department of Neurology, University of Helsinki, Finland.


Aromatic hydrocarbon solvents, used widely in industry, cause central nervous system symptoms in exposed workers. Acute effects of m-xylene were studied in nine voluntary subjects exposed experimentally to stable or varying concentrations of m-xylene at rest or while exercising. Each subject participated in four exposure and two control sessions in a single-blind fashion. The time-weighted average (TWA) m-xylene concentration was always 200 parts per million (ppm) (8.2 mumol/l) during the 4-h exposure period, complying to a TWA of 4.1 mumol/l.8 h, which is equivalent to the hygienic limit allowed in work situations. The short-term peak concentrations were 400 ppm or less. Electroencephalography was recorded at the beginning of exposure, during exposure, and after exposure was stopped. Eighteen 60-s EEG samples for each subject on each experimental day were analyzed automatically. Exercise increased theta percentage and delta power and percentage; these changes were more prominent in the control session without exposure. Exposure increased the dominant alpha frequency and alpha percentage during the early phase of exposure and also counteracted the effects of exercise. The effects of short-term m-xylene exposure on EEG were minor, and no deleterious effects were noted. Perhaps alpha activation is indicative of stimulating and excitatory effects induced by m-xylene exposure, which has been noted heretofore in the absorption phase of alcohol intake.

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