Author(s): Saddik B, Williamson A, Nuwayhid I, Black D
OBJECTIVES: Children working in vehicle spray-painting, mechanical, and other trade workshops are at significant risk of exposure to organic solvents and, as a result, may be at significant risk of developing clinical and subclinical signs of neurotoxicity. This study reports on the association between exposure to solvents and neurobehavioral performance on a number of non-computerized tests for working children exposed to solvents in comparison with nonexposed working children and nonexposed children at school. METHODS: A convenience cross-sectional sample of 300 male children aged 10-17 years was recruited for study. The exposed working group and the two nonexposed groups (working and nonworking school) were matched, as far as possible, on geographic location of residence and age. Neurotoxic effects were assessed through a questionnaire and the child's performance on a selection of neurobehavioral tests. RESULTS: Exposed working children scored worse on the overall neurotoxicity symptoms score (mean=6.8; standard deviation [SD]=3.6) compared with the nonexposed working children (mean=1.3; SD=2.0) and school children (mean=1.2; SD=1.8). Analysis of the non-computerized neurobehavioral tests demonstrated that exposed working children performed significantly worse than the two nonexposed groups on the motor dexterity and memory tests. Results of the mood test showed that exposed working children were more angry and confused than the nonexposed groups. CONCLUSION: There is an association between exposure to solvents and lower neurobehavioral performance, with significant neurobehavioral deficits among children exposed to solvents in comparison with working children not exposed to solvents and nonworking school children. Memory and motor dexterity appear to be particularly affected in solvent-exposed working children.