Case report

Scand J Work Environ Health 1995;21(6):517-520    pdf


Peripheral neuropathy in styrene-exposed workers

by Gobba F, Cavalleri F, Bontadi D, Torri P, Dainese R

Background The toxicity of styrene on the peripheral nervous system is still debated.

Cases The paper presents two cases of peripheral sensorimotor neuropathy in styrene-exposed workers. Exposure, evaluated by biological monitoring, ranged between 100 and 150% of the current limits proposed by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH). The subjects complained of leg weakness and numbness, cramps, and paresthesia. Electrophysiology revealed a moderate peripheral sensorimotor neuropathy of a demyelinating type. Color-vision testing showed a subclinical deficit. Common inherited and acquired causes of peripheral neuropathy and dyschromatopsia other than styrene were ruled out by personal history, medical examination, laboratory data, and chest X-ray.

Conclusion The results suggest that long-term occupational exposure to environmental levels of styrene that are equal, or slightly above, the ACGIH limits can induce a clinical form of peripheral neuropathy and a subclinical impairment of color vision. As a consequence, a careful reappraisal of the real preventive meaning of the current ACGIH occupational limit for styrene, at least on an individual basis, is needed.