Intervention study on acquired color vision deficiencies in styrene-exposed workers

J Occup Environ Med. 2001 May;43(5):494-500. doi: 10.1097/00043764-200105000-00010.


The main aim of the study was to examine the possible effects of occupational exposure to styrene on color vision function and the course after reduction of exposure. Color vision function was examined in 22 styrene-exposed laminators and 11 control subjects at a boat manufacturing plant. The Lanthony D-15 desaturated panel was used to test acquired dyschromatopsia. In all, six examinations were performed: Monday morning and Thursday afternoon of the same week, before and immediately after a vacation of 4 weeks (altogether, phase 1), and approximately 10 months later (phase 2), after the exposure level of styrene had been reduced. Styrene uptake was objectified by biological monitoring measuring the metabolites mandelic acid and phenylglyoxcylic acid in urine samples taken on Thursday afternoon. In both Thursday examinations, styrene-exposed workers had higher color confusion index (CCI) values compared with controls, which indicated quantitative color vision loss. After an exposure-free period of 4 weeks, a significant decrease of CCI values to normal range was found in laminators. Reexamination 10 months later showed also lower CCI values in exposed workers, indicating a dose-effect relationship. Abnormal CCI values occurred primarily in subjects with an excretion of approximately 500 to 600 mg mandelic acid plus phenylglyoxcylic acid per gram creatinine or more. We concluded that styrene-induced color vision dysfunction is reversible after an exposure-free interval of 4 weeks. The current Biological Tolerance Value of 600 mg mandelic acid plus phenylglyoxcylic acid per gram creatinine, as used in Germany, protects styrene-exposed workers from this subclinical effect.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Color Vision Defects / chemically induced*
  • Color Vision Defects / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Industry
  • Male
  • Manufactured Materials
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Styrene / adverse effects*


  • Styrene