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The neurotoxicity of industrial solvents: a review of the literature.
Baker EL Jr.; Smith TJ; Landrigan PJ
Am J Ind Med 1985 Sep; 8(3):207-217
The neurotoxicity of industrial solvents is reviewed. The construction and repair of modern boats involve the use of large volumes of organic solvents, particularly styrene (100425). An historical account of the acute neurotoxic effects of heavy exposure to organic solvents is given. The uptake of solvent into the peripheral blood is discussed. Factors affecting the uptake of organic solvents are outlined. A brief immersion of hands of workers in xylene (1330207) produces blood concentrations of xylene comparable to those following an 8 hour inhalation exposure at 100 parts per million, the threshold limit value for the solvent. The rate of solvent uptake through the skin varies substantially among workers, owing to variation in skin thickness. The metabolism of xylene is discussed. Factors that affect metabolism, such as alcohol ingestion, are summarized. The excretion of solvents is either by exhalation or through urinary excretion, mostly as unchanged or solvent metabolites. Experimental human studies on the neurotoxicity of solvents are discussed. Neurological syndromes after solvent exposure include loss of smell, loss of visual acuity, and toxic optic neuropathy. The epidemiological studies on xylene exposure are discussed. Toxic effects may be prevented by reduction of airborne exposure concentrations. The authors conclude that the biological monitoring of exposed populations and the screening of workers after work shifts are necessary in the control of solvent exposure toxicity.
NIOSH-Author; Toxicology; Plastics; Skin; Industrial-hygiene; Toxic-effects; Industrial-environment; Solvents; Dermatology; Industrial-exposures; Neurotoxicology; Nerve-function; Author Keywords: organic solvents; styrene; boatbuilding; neurotoxicity; occupational disease
Dr. Baker, Occupational Health Program, Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115
Issue of Publication
American Journal of Industrial Medicine
Page last reviewed: May 5, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division