Subclinical impairment of colour vision among workers exposed to styrene

Br J Ind Med. 1992 Oct;49(10):679-82. doi: 10.1136/oem.49.10.679.


The effects of exposure to styrene were studied among 60 men aged 20 to 56 (mean 29.5) employed in shipbuilding. Exposure was due to the handling of glass reinforced polyester materials. The study was cross sectional and the workers were compared with a control group matched for age, social and occupational state, and ethnic origin. During the study, the mean atmospheric exposure to styrene was 24.3 ppm. Mean urinary elimination was 230 mg/g creatinine for mandelic acid and 57.4 mg/g creatinine for phenylglyoxylic acid. The Farnsworth 100 hue test showed no significant differences between the exposed and control groups for error scores. A significant difference was found, however, for the number of subjects with errors axis in the red-green, or blue-yellow ranges, or both, which was larger among the exposed workers (32/60 v 20/60 for the controls (p < 0.05)). Psychometric tests were also conducted, using the World Health Organisation (WHO) neurobehavioural core test battery. Of the seven tests it included, anomalies were only found for the aiming test. These results suggest that exposure to moderate styrene concentrations of the order of 25 ppm can lead to impairment of colour vision.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Color Perception
  • Color Vision Defects / chemically induced*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Reaction Time
  • Ships
  • Styrenes / adverse effects*


  • Styrenes