NIOSH (USA) stated in
1987 in their Current Intelligence Bulletin that aldehydes
organic solvents are classified as aliphatic
aromatic hydrocarbons, halogenated hydrocarbons, ketones, amines,
alcohols, aldehydes, and ethers”.
In correspondence with
New Zealand’s Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC)
Health Science Centre, University of Auckland, accepts that
glutaraldehyde is a solvent under Axelson and Hogstedt’s
Dr Monigatti (ACC
Workwise, NZ) states: “We accept glutaraldehyde has
solvent-like properties. If chronic solvent exposure
can cause these sorts of things then we accept that glutaraldehyde
can cause [solvent toxicity] as well....(Safeguard Update, No 96,
20 April, 1998).
studies of various groups of solvent-exposed workers have
demonstrated statistically significant chronic changes in
peripheral nerve function
(sensory and motor
nerve conduction velocities and electromyographicabnormalities)
that persisted for
months to years following cessation of exposure.
have also shown statistically significant increases in
neurobehavioural effects in workers chronically exposed to organic
These effects include
disorders characterized by reversible subjective symptoms
irritability, and memory impairment), sustained changes in
personality or mind
and diminished impulse control and motivation), and impaired
intellectual function (decreased concentration ability, memory,
and learning ability). Among organic solvent abusers, the
most severe disorders reported are characterized by irreversible
deterioration in intellect and memory... accompanied by structural
| Two international workshops
have categorized solvent-induced CNS disorders (NIOSH p 17):
“Type 1 is characterized by fatigue, memory impairment,
irritability, difficulty in concentrating, and mild mood
disturbance. Type 2A includes sustained personality or mood
changes and Type 2B impairment in intellectual function manifested
by diminished concentration, memory and learning capacity.
The boundaries are not necessarily clearcut.”
Organic Brain Syndrome, OBS /
Psycho-Organic Syndrome, POS /
Chronic Toxic Encephalopathy, CTE.
|The diagnosis is usually based on
case histories, symptoms and psychometric tests. Work in
Sweden has shown that long-term solvent-exposed workers have
disturbances of the equilibrium (vision/sense of balance) system
and that an otoneurological test battery (ear
nerves/balance) adds worthwhile information about abnormalities
within the brainstem-cerebellar complex. 
It is the same VIII nerve which carries messages about sound and
|A second report showed that the
long-term solvent exposed were worse at recognising
distorted speech and had significantly longer cortical response
audiometry, ie the time taken for the message to reach the
brain stem. There was no difference between the control
group and the solvent group in recognising pure tones or single
syllable speech. The findings suggest long-term solvent
exposure causes disturbances of the central pathways in the
otovestibular complex (hearing and balance nerves and
| Another Swedish study
indicates that a 5 year follow-up of workers shows effects on the
central nervous system persist after exposure ceases, with reduced
activity, leisure, education and training, and more
neuropsychiatric symptoms. They did not get worse. If a
worker was removed when he had symptoms without signs of
intellectual impairment, recovery was seen in most cases.
See also the sections on Glutaldehyde/Formaldehyde Neurotoxicity
and Rehabilitation pp 23-29.
| Dr Keir Howard
states: “It is worth remembering that many organic
solvents are related to anaesthetic gases and have the same
effects. Solvents form the base of many paints, laquers,
varnishes, thinners, waxes, printing inks and adhesives and are
used for degreasing and cleaning purposes as well as forming the
base of many therapeutic and pesticide mixtures... It is
always worth being reminded that the commonest organic solvent to
which people are exposed is ethyl alcohol in the form of beer,
wines and spirits... the effects are essentially identical to
over-exposure to the various organic solvents used in the
industry... consumption of alcoholic drinks frequently enhances
the effects of solvent exposure... tolerance for alcohol is
reduced... a worker heavily exposed during a shift may be just as
dangerous on the road as someone whose blood alcohol is over the
limit.” Main effects are drying, cracking, reddening skin;
dermatitis; toxic effects on liver, kidneys, and
cardiovascular system, on the central and peripheral nervous
systems and “general lassitude with tiredness, sleep
disturbances and lack of motivation.”
| *From WHO
Toxins Awareness Group): paint solvents are carcinogenic,
painters having a 40% higher chance of lung cancer and
20% higher of stomach, bladder, larynx, etc cancers, while their
children are at increased risk of leukaemia and brain tumours.
workers' health the price we pay for high-tech progress?
kind of cancers for ethylene glycol ether exposure?" *
|*From the NZEPMU
printers’ seminar 1998, on solvent neurotoxicity:
50% of solvent neurotoxicity comes from the printing industy.
From Prof Bill Glass’s introduction: solvents cause
abortions and affect sperm. Measured air levels don’t include
skin absorption. For toluene, hippuric acid is tested in urine - the
levels rise and fall depending on work exposure. [Toluene and benzene
were discovered in the headspace above X-ray processing
solutions.] Solvents accumulate in fats and are excreted more
One story: that of the bloke whose wife made him sleep
facing a new tallboy (because he breathed fumes on her all night -
many solvents are excreted through the respiratory system) and
stripped the finish off part of it by the end of the year.
affected often become aggressive both at work and at home. It is
common to find marriages and relationships falling apart.
|*From David Appleby,
OSH, NZ: Many WES (Worker Exposure Stds) are still
set too high for solvents and anaesthetic gases to prevent solvent
neurotoxicity and adverse pregnancy outcomes. These limits are
political. The lower the WES the more toxic the chemical. A
chemical with a WES of 25 is four times more toxic than a WES of 100.
Also WES are based on studies of healthy males. He suggested his
experience is that women are more sensitive to, and experience more
harmful effects from solvents than men. Women can consume only
2/3 the alcohol of men. [Like Asians, women have less alcohol
dehydrogenase enzyme] ?similar for solvents. There is some
evidence that solvents not soluble in water cause more harm and
more readily enter the bloodstream. [See Anaesthetics p 18].
Benzene is an example - see the SNFTAAS’ Bibliography on our web
page: Medinsky MA, Determinants of gas and vapour uptake in
the respiratory tract, CIIT, 16, 2, 1996, or
Also the metabolites of benzene (eg 2,5-hexanedione) are more
neurotoxic than the parent compound.
|*From NIOSH - Organic Solvent
Neurotoxicity 1987: Exercise increases breathing and heart
rate and can lead to increased solvent uptake through the lungs, eg
one study showed a 28% increase in zylene uptake. Ethanol
modifies solvent metabolism: 7 volunteers who drank ethanol
(alcohol) and inhaled toluene had a higher blood concentration of
toluene than when no alcohol was drunk. It was thought this was
because of competition for alcohol dehydrogenase necessary for the
metabolism of both.
|But in another study, 33 workers who
regularly drank alcohol had significantly lower blood toluene
concentrations than other workers who seldom drank. This
suggests chronic ethanol ingestion induces solvent metabolising
enzymes in the liver and thereby lowers blood solvent concentrations.
|*Significant associations with spontaneous
abortion were found for exposure to formalin, toluene and
zylene in women working in pathology and histology laboratories 3
or more days a week. This agreed with some earlier studies but
because of the multi-exposure to chemicals the results have to be
interpreted cautiously. 
Toluene is certainly implicated here.
| *Birth Defects Found In
Babies of Women Exposed to Solvents. Wall Street Journal,
24 March 1999, A6. A study published in the Journal of the
American Medical Association found that pregnant women exposed to
organic solvents at work are 13 times more likely to have a baby with
major birth defects, and are at increased risk for miscarriages, low
birth weight, fetal distress, and prematurity. Organic solvents
are found in paints, pesticides, adhesives, lacquers, and cleaning
agents, and the study found more problems in women employed in
factories, laboratories, graphic design or printing businesses, and as
chemists. Dr. Richard Schwarz, an obstetrics consultant to the
March of Dimes, warned that the study group was too small to reach
definitive conclusions at this point.
|*The aromatics which have
replaced lead in petrol are toluene, zylene, benzene, mesitylene and
dimethyl-benzene. “The data leaves no doubt that additives are
thoroughgoing highly potent carcingogens”. It’s much
safer to fill your mower, outboard, chainsaw... with leaded petrol.
|*MEK or 2-Butanone (an organic
solvent - also called methyl ethyl ketone, methyl acetone) is
found in vehicle exhaust; off-gasses naturally from trees; off-gasses
formaldehyde when burned. Used in/for adhesives, foil,
cleaning products, dental adhesive, film, vinyl,
food flavouring, glue, gums, laquer, synthetic
leather, lube oils, paint stripper, transparent paper,
paraffin wax, perfume, pesticide inert, plastic, printing
ink, resin, rosin, synthetic rubber, varnish. (Our
Toxic Times, p 9, Dec, 1998).
| *ACTA Update, No 37, Oct 1997:
Neurotoxicity - An Overview E G Hilary:
“...Since WW2 there have been 600 million synthetic chemicals
unleashed on the world... The human nervous system is designed to be
extremely sensitive. It registers the slightest sound, the touch of a
feather over skin, the subtlety of conceptual thinking .... stress is
a hackneyed diagnosis... rare brain cancer glioma is increasing
astonishingly.... neurobehavioural testing in populations chronically
exposed to neurotoxins is vital... ”
the secret pesticides. Inerts are the
ingredients in pesticides which do not have to be specified. EPA lists
over 1400 of these including solvents, stabilisers, and preservatives.
Linguistic gymnastics allow tricky manouvres. Inerts include glycol
ether, xylene, toluene, formaldehyde and glutaraldehyde.
(NCAP - Internet: http://www.efn.org/~ncap/ActiveInertsRel.htm
71 different solvents were identified in 8,000 pesticides in 1993,
(particularly xylene). The solvent may explain the increases in
the risks for leukemia and non-Hodgkins lymphoma in farmers.
Niklasson M et al.
Are deficits in the equilibrium system relevant to the clinical
investigation of solvent-induced neurotoxicity? Scan J
Work Envir Health. 23, 3, 206-13, June 1997.
Niklasson M et al.
Audiological disturbances caused by long-term exposure to
industrial solvents. Relation to the diagnosis of toxic
encephalopathy. Scand Audiol. 3, 27,
Edling C et al.
Long-term follow-up of workers exposed to solvents. Br
J Ind Med. 47,2, 75-82, 1990
Howard Keir. Risks
vary regarding solvents in industry. New Zealand Doctor
in Practice. 3 March 1994.
Taskinen H et al.
Laboratory work and pregnancy outcome. JOM, 36,
3, 311-319, 1994.
Greenway R D. Leaded
vs Unleaded. Pacific Ultralights. May 1998,
Petrelli G et al.
Solvents in Pesticides. Scand J Work Envir Health
19, 6, 1993.
Is 2-butoxyethanol a Pesticide? *
cause endocrine disruption?
detailed description: endocrine
glands and their functions.
has studied Diethylene Glycol Monobutyl Ether *
Among the 101
EPA tested pesticides - for endocrine
Ethylene glycol monobutyl ether
What were the