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Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2014 Jul-Aug;44:113-20. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2014 Jun 11.

Neuropharmacological and cochleotoxic effects of styrene. Consequences on noise exposures.

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Institut National de Recherche et de Sécurité, Rue du Morvan, CS 60027, F-54519 Vandœuvre Cedex, France. Electronic address:
Institut National de Recherche et de Sécurité, Rue du Morvan, CS 60027, F-54519 Vandœuvre Cedex, France.


Occupational noise exposure can damage workers' hearing, particularly when combined with exposure to cochleotoxic chemicals such as styrene. Although styrene-induced cochlear impairments only become apparent after a long incubation period, the pharmacological impact of styrene on the central nervous system (CNS) can be rapidly measured by determining the threshold of the middle-ear acoustic reflex (MER) trigger. The aim of the study was to evaluate the effects of a noise (both continuous and impulse), and a low concentration of styrene [300ppm<(threshold limit value×10) safety factor] on the peripheral auditory receptor, and on the CNS in rats. The impact of the different conditions on hearing loss was assessed using distortion product oto-acoustic emissions, and histological analysis of cochleae. Although the LEX,8h (8-hour time-weighted average exposure) of the impulse noise was lower (80dB SPL sound pressure level) than that of the continuous noise (85dB SPL), it appeared more detrimental to the peripheral auditory receptors. A co-exposure to styrene and continuous noise was less damaging than exposure to continuous noise alone. In contrast, the traumatic effects of impulse noise on the organ of Corti were enhanced by co-exposure to styrene. The pharmacological effects of the solvent on the CNS were discussed to put forward a plausible explanation of these surprising results. We hypothesize that CNS effects of styrene may account for this apparent paradox. Based on the present results, the temporal structure of the noise should be reintroduced as a key parameter in hearing conservation regulations.


Combined exposure; Middle-ear reflex; Noise; Risk assessment; Styrene

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