Workers are often justifiably concerned about being exposed to fumes from paint, glue, or degreasers. The brain may never
fully recover from exposure to these fumes reported the American Academy of Neurology on May 12, 2014. According to researchers this exposure may cause memory and thinking problems decades after the exposure during retirement.
Study author Erika L. Sabbath, ScD, of Harvard School of Public Health says these findings are very important because exposure to solvents is very common, even in industrialized countries such as the United States. Solvents pose a serious risk to the cognitive health of workers. The researchers found that people with high, recent exposure to solvents were at the most risk for memory and thinking deficits.
There were 2,143 retirees from the French national utility company included in the study. The workers with high, recent exposure to chlorinated solvents were found to be 65 percent more likely to have impaired scores on tests of memory and visual attention and task switching than those workers who were not exposed to these solvents.
The workers with high exposure within the past 12 to 30 years displayed impairment in almost all areas of memory and thinking. The researchers also observed cognitive problems in those workers who had been highly exposed much longer ago, up to 50 years prior to testing. These findings have suggested that time may not fully lower the effect of solvent exposure on some memory and cognitive skills if lifetime exposure is high.
This study has been published in the journal Neurology. The researchers found that time may not fully attenuate solvent-associated cognitive deficits in workers with high exposure. It has been concluded that while risk of cognitive impairment among moderately exposed workers may be reduced with time, this may not be fully seen in workers with higher exposure. These considerations may be significant for physicians working with patients who were formerly exposed to solvents as well as for workplace exposure limit policies.