Organic solvents and the risk of multiple sclerosis

Epidemiology. 2002 Nov;13(6):718-20. doi: 10.1097/00001648-200211000-00018.


Background: Epidemiologic studies suggest that environmental factors may be part of the yet unknown causation of multiple sclerosis (MS). Several case-control studies have shown a history of elevated exposure to organic solvents among cases.

Methods: Three cohorts of 11,542 painters, 36,899 construction workers and 9,314 food-processing workers were identified by the 1970 census in Norway. The cohorts were followed until the end of 1986 for registration of disability pensions.

Results: A total of nine painters, 12 construction workers and six food workers had received a disability pension because of MS. The relative risk for painters compared with workers not exposed to organic solvents was 2.0 (95% confidence inter-val = 0.9-4.5) for MS.

Conclusions: These results are compatible with the hypothesis of organic solvents being a possible risk factor for MS.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cohort Studies
  • Food-Processing Industry
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / epidemiology*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / etiology*
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Paint
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Risk Factors
  • Solvents / adverse effects*


  • Solvents