Research/studies Workplace exposures

Exposure to solvents may cause long-term memory problems

Boston – Workers who are exposed to paint, glue or degreaser fumes may experience cognitive issues such as memory loss during retirement, according to a recent study from the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies.

Researchers studied more than 2,000 retirees from a French national utility company and found that workers who had high exposure to chlorinated solvents, petroleum solvents and benzene were at the greatest risk of long-term cognitive problems. Time may not fully lessen the effect of the damage, according to the study abstract, which cited impairment in some retirees who were exposed up to 50 years before testing.

Retired workers with prolonged exposure to solvents may benefit from regular cognitive screening to catch problems early, researchers said. Other tips included taking part in mentally stimulating activities, as well as screening and treatment for heart problems that can affect cognitive health.

The study was published online May 13 in the journal Neurology.