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 NeurologyÂ®, 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.