Send to

Choose Destination

Peripheral markers of catecholaminergic dysfunction and symptoms of neurotoxicity among styrene-exposed workers.

Author information

Laboratory of Industrial Toxicology, Universita di Parma, Italy.



A cross-sectional investigation was carried out to assess possible relations between styrene-induced changes in three peripheral markers of catecholaminergic dysfunction and self-reported symptoms of neurotoxicity.


Male workers (n = 46) aged 14-60 (mean 29.5) years who had been exposed to styrene for an average of 6 (0.2-29) years were recruited in glassfiber reinforced plastics plants. A control group of 30 blue-collar workers aged 22-52 (mean 35) years and with no history of exposure to chemicals was recruited from local industries. Styrene exposure ranged from 5 to 120 ppm (8 h-TWA), the median level being relatively low (25 ppm, 8 h-TWA). Styrene metabolites, mandelic and phenylglycoxylic acids (MAPGA) in the "next morning" urine spot samples ranged from 32.0 to 931.1 mg/g creatinine (median 186.5).


Platelet monoamine oxidases B (MAO B) and dopamine beta-hydroxylase (DBH) activities were assessed using methods based on HPLC and electrochemical detection. Plasma prolactin (PRL) was measured by a commercially available immunoassay. Questionnaire 16 (Q16) was used to survey self-reported symptoms.


Although there was no difference in DBH activity between exposed workers and controls, the most highly exposed workers had significantly lower activity than control subjects. A tendency to lower platelet MAO B activity in exposed than in control subjects was observed. The prevalence of plasma DBH and platelet MAO B values below the lower reference limit was similar in the two groups. PRL values exceeding the upper reference limit were higher (14/46 vs 2/30) among styrene-exposed workers, who also exhibited significantly higher median levels (10.0 vs 5.7 micrograms/l) than control subjects. Although the number of reported symptoms was similar among exposed and control subjects, in the exposed group it was positively associated with urinary MAPGA (Rho = 0.30, P = 0.04). Of the three peripheral markers of catecholaminergic dysfunction, plasma DBH was the only parameter negatively related to both urinary MAPGA (F = 9.56, P = 0.003) and the number of reported symptoms (Rho = 0.23, P = 0.05).


Plasma PRL appears to be a sensitive marker of styrene-induced tubero-infundibular dopaminergic dysfunction in male subjects. DBH in plasma and MAO B in platelets seem to be less suitable markers for biomonitoring effect at the individual level, although DBH was related to the number of reported symptoms and to internal dose. Further studies on a larger and more exposed population are necessary to clarify the significance of these markers for health and their predictive value with regard to both subjective disturbances and concurrently administered performance tests.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Springer
Loading ...
Support Center