People who are exposed to paint, glue or degreaser fumes at work may experience memory and thinking problems in retirement, decades after their exposure, according to a study published in the May 13, 2014, print issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
“Our findings are particularly important because exposure to solvents is very common, even in industrialized countries like the United States.” said study author Erika L. Sabbath, ScD, of Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. “Solvents pose a real risk to the present and future cognitive health of workers, and as retirement ages go up, the length of time that people are exposed is going up, too.”
The study involved 2,143 retirees from the French national utility company. Researchers assessed the workers’ lifetime exposure to chlorinated solvents, petroleum solvents, and benzene, including the timing of last exposure and lifetime dosage. Benzene is used to make plastics, rubber, dye, detergents and other synthetic materials. Chlorinated solvents can be found in dry cleaning solutions, engine cleaners, paint removers and degreasers. Petroleum solvents are used in carpet glue, furniture polishes, paint, paint thinner and varnish. Of the participants, 26 percent were exposed to benzene, 33 percent to chlorinated solvents and 25 percent to petroleum solvents.
Participants took eight tests of their memory and thinking skills an average of 10 years after they had retired, when they were an average age of 66. A total of 59 percent of the participants had impairment on one to three of the eight tests; 23 percent had impairment on four or more tests; 18 percent had no impaired scores.
The average lifetime solvent exposure was determined based on historical company records, and the participants were categorized as having no exposure, moderate exposure if they had less than the average and high exposure if they had higher than the average. They were also divided by when the last exposure occurred, with those last exposed from 12 to 30 years prior to the testing considered as recent exposure and those last exposed 31 to 50 years prior considered as more distant exposure.
The research found that people with high, recent exposure to solvents were at greatest risk for memory and thinking deficits. For example, those with high, recent exposure to chlorinated solvents were 65 percent more likely to have impaired scores on tests of memory and visual attention and task switching than those who were not exposed to solvents. The results remained the same after accounting for factors such as education level, age, smoking and alcohol consumption.
“The people with high exposure within the last 12 to 30 years showed impairment in almost all areas of memory and thinking, including those not usually associated with solvent exposure,” Sabbath said. “But what was really striking was that we also saw some cognitive problems in those who had been highly exposed much longer ago, up to 50 years before testing. This suggests that time may not fully lessen the effect of solvent exposure on some memory and cognitive skills when lifetime exposure is high.”
Sabbath said the results may have implications for policies on workplace solvent exposure limits. “Of course, the first goal is protecting the cognitive health of individual workers. But protecting workers from exposure could also benefit organizations, payers, and society by reducing workers’ post-retirement health care costs and enabling them to work longer,” said Sabbath. “That said, retired workers who have had prolonged exposure to solvents during their career may benefit from regular cognitive screening to catch problems early, screening and treatment for heart problems that can affect cognitive health, or mentally stimulating activities like learning new skills.”
The study, which used data from the GAZEL cohort, was supported by INSERM, French National Research Agency and the French Agency for Sanitary Security of Environment and Work.
To learn more about cognition, please visit www.aan.com/patients.
The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 27,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, brain injury, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.
Rachel L. Seroka | American Academy of Neurology
Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung
High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg
Friction stir welding is a still-young and thus often unfamiliar pressure welding process for joining flat components and semi-finished components made of light metals.
Scientists at the University of Stuttgart have now developed two new process variants that will considerably expand the areas of application for friction stir welding.
Technologie-Lizenz-Büro (TLB) GmbH supports the University of Stuttgart in patenting and marketing its innovations.
Friction stir welding is a still-young and thus often unfamiliar pressure welding process for joining flat components and semi-finished components made of...
Optical quantum computers can revolutionize computer technology. A team of researchers led by scientists from Münster University and KIT now succeeded in putting a quantum optical experimental set-up onto a chip. In doing so, they have met one of the requirements for making it possible to use photonic circuits for optical quantum computers.
Optical quantum computers are what people are pinning their hopes on for tomorrow’s computer technology – whether for tap-proof data encryption, ultrafast...
The Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP has been developing various applications for OLED microdisplays based on organic semiconductors. By integrating the capabilities of an image sensor directly into the microdisplay, eye movements can be recorded by the smart glasses and utilized for guidance and control functions, as one example. The new design will be debuted at Augmented World Expo Europe (AWE) in Berlin at Booth B25, October 18th – 19th.
“Augmented-reality” and “wearables” have become terms we encounter almost daily. Both can make daily life a little simpler and provide valuable assistance for...
With the help of artificial intelligence, chemists from the University of Basel in Switzerland have computed the characteristics of about two million crystals made up of four chemical elements. The researchers were able to identify 90 previously unknown thermodynamically stable crystals that can be regarded as new materials. They report on their findings in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.
Elpasolite is a glassy, transparent, shiny and soft mineral with a cubic crystal structure. First discovered in El Paso County (Colorado, USA), it can also be...
For the first time, Fraunhofer IKTS shows additively manufactured hardmetal tools at WorldPM 2016 in Hamburg. Mechanical, chemical as well as a high heat resistance and extreme hardness are required from tools that are used in mechanical and automotive engineering or in plastics and building materials industry. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS in Dresden managed the production of complex hardmetal tools via 3D printing in a quality that are in no way inferior to conventionally produced high-performance tools.
Fraunhofer IKTS counts decades of proven expertise in the development of hardmetals. To date, reliable cutting, drilling, pressing and stamping tools made of...
29.09.2016 | Event News
28.09.2016 | Event News
27.09.2016 | Event News
29.09.2016 | Materials Sciences
29.09.2016 | Materials Sciences
29.09.2016 | Interdisciplinary Research