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Neurobehavioral evaluation of soil and structural fumigators using methyl bromide and sulfuryl fluoride.

Anger WK; Moody L; Burg J; Brightwell WS; Taylor BJ; Russo JM; Dickerson N; Setzer JV; Johnson BL; Hicks K
Neurotoxicology 1986 Jan; 7(3):137-156
A survey of neurobehavioral effects of exposure to pesticide formulations containing methyl-bromide (74839) and sulfuryl-fluoride (2699798) in applicators was conducted. The cohort consisted of 156 males employed as soil and structural fumigators by 36 companies and two state agencies in California. They were exposed to methyl- bromide, sulfuryl-fluoride, or both. Twenty-nine persons who were not exposed to high concentrations of chemicals served as comparisons. Personal and area air sampling for methyl-bromide and sulfuryl-fluoride was conducted. All subjects underwent a limited and directed clinical neurological examination, nerve conduction and neurobehavioral tests, and were given a medical symptom questionnaire intended to identify effects of methyl-bromide exposure. Structural fumigators were exposed to 0 to 2.2 parts per million (ppm) methyl-bromide or 10 to 200ppm sulfuryl-fluoride for up to 1.5 hours daily. Soil fumigators had methyl-bromide exposures of 2.3ppm per workday. Area samples ranged from 1.0 to 12.0ppm methyl-bromide. Fumigators exposed to methyl-bromide reported significantly higher prevalence of symptoms such as muscle aching and muscle fatigue than the comparisons. They reported an increased prevalence of symptoms such as slurred speech, dizziness, and stumbling when walking. Methyl-bromide fumigators did not perform as well as comparisons on 23 of 27 behavioral tests; they showed a significant performance deficit in one test of finger sensitivity and one of cognitive performance. Fumigators exposed to sulfuryl- fluoride showed the same trends as seen in the fumigators using methyl-bromide: increased prevalence of symptoms and reduced performance on behavioral tests. The authors suggest that low exposures to methyl-bromide may produce mild neurotoxic effects. They note that there is essentially no data base for sulfuryl- fluoride since there is only one other published report on sulfuryl- fluoride toxicology.
NIOSH-Author; Epidemiology; Pesticides; Fumigants; Occupational-exposure; Organo-bromine-compounds; Fluorine-compounds; Neurotoxic-effects; Behavioral-testing; Humans
74-83-9; 2699-79-8
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Journal Article
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Neurotoxic Disorders; Neurotoxic-effects
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Page last reviewed: February 11, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division