Scand J Work Environ Health 1978;4 suppl 2:184-194    pdf | Issue date: 1978

Neurophysiological observations after chronic styrene exposure.

by Rosén I, Haeger-Aronsen B, Rehnström S, Welinder H

Thirty-three styrene exposed workers from three different industrial sites were examined with electroencephalography and motor and sensory neurography. The three groups had respective styrene exposures of clearly above the threshold limit value (50 ppm), at about this level, and clearly below it. The neurophysiological results were compared with those of a group of normal controls and a group of 17 patients judged to suffer from sequelae after long-term heavy exposure to organic solvents (mainly painters). Ten subjects in the styrene group presented signs of a mild sensory neuropathy with polyphasic sensory responses of a low amplitude. The same pattern was commonly found among the reference group heavily exposed to solvents. The ten subjects in the styrene group with mild polyneuropathy had a significantly higher age and significantly heavier styrene exposure than the rest of the group. Age difference could not explain the difference in the neurophysiological parameters, and therefore the contributing role of styrene exposure has to be considered. The electroencephalographic analysis showed no changes of the dominant alpha frequency. An increased amount of diffuse slow activity was seen in many of the heavily exposed mixed-solvent cases and was seen in some of the styrene-exposed cases without a clear relation to degree of exposure. An increased occurrence of fast activity in central and precentral areas of the brain was found in the styrene group, as well as in the mixed-solvent group. This pilot study indicates that the same type of neurophysiological changes from the strictly normal are seen among workers exposed to styrene as those found among a group of patients judged to suffer from sequelae after chronic exposure to various organic solvents. The neurophysiological "profile" is (a) sensory nerve responses with low amplitude and long duration, (b) somewhat low sensory conduction velocities, (c) close to normal motor neurographic findings, and (d) an increased amount of fast activity in central and precentral regions in the electroencephalogram in combination with normal occipital alpha activity.