Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 1994;20 Special issue:59-64    pdf

Has the Scandinavian solvent syndrome controversy been solved?

by Hogstedt C

This article discusses the "Scandinavian solvent syndrome" and reviews epidemiologic studies on occupational solvent exposure and two related outcomes. High cumulative exposure to organic solvents in the 1960-1970s was related to early retirement from neuropsychiatric disorders, but solvent exposure alone was an unlikely cause of more severe dementia conditions. Heavy alcohol consumption seemed to modify the effect on solvent-related brain disorders strongly, but no reports exist of alcohol consumption as a confounding factor. Many cross-sectional and experimental studies support functional impairment from high solvent exposure. The mists and myths around the "Scandinavian solvent syndrome" can now be cleared up: it was not a uniform syndrome, it might be reversible in many cases, it is not confined to the Scandinavian countries, the risk of more severe dementia is substantial for combined high solvent exposure and excessive alcohol consumption, and many solvent-exposed workers receive early retirement due to solvent-related neuropsychiatric disorders.