Research/studies Workplace exposures Chemical Metalwork Worker Health and Wellness Manufacturing

On-the-job exposure to solvents may raise blood pressure risk

Hispanic male worker
Photo: kali9/iStockphoto

Chicago — People exposed to organic solvents on the job may have a greater risk of developing high blood pressure, according to a recent study of Latino workers.

Using data from interviews and medical exams of 7,127 employed Latinos, researchers from the University of Chicago looked for health-related associations between the participants and the metals, solvents and pesticides they came in contact with or worked near. The researchers note in the study that Latino workers were selected because they are the fastest-growing minority group in the United States, make up a significant portion of the labor force exposed to hazardous chemicals, and – particularly those who are foreign-born – may be especially vulnerable because of low socioeconomic status and language barriers.

The researchers were looking for signs of increased incidence of metabolic syndrome, a group of factors – including high blood pressure – that raise a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease. They found that 27 percent of participants had three of the five symptoms of metabolic syndrome: abdominal obesity, high triglycerides, low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high blood pressure and high glucose.

Study results showed that of the nearly 6 percent of participants who reported being exposed to organic solvents at work, 32 percent had high blood pressure. Solvent exposure was unrelated to the other metabolic syndrome risk factors, and researchers found no link between metabolic syndrome and occupational exposure to metals or pesticides.

Although the study focused on one ethnic group and more research is needed, “the findings suggest that solvents ‘may be important risk factors for high blood pressure among American workers,’” the study abstract states.

The study was published in the November issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

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