Neurobehavioral evaluation of Venezuelan workers exposed to organic solvent mixtures

Am J Ind Med. 1995 Jan;27(1):15-27. doi: 10.1002/ajim.4700270103.


To assess the applicability of the World Health Organization (WHO) Neurobehavioral Core Test Battery (NCTB), we evaluated 53 male and 29 female Venezuelan workers exposed to mixtures of organic solvents in an adhesive factory, and 56 male and 11 female workers unexposed to any type of neurotoxic chemical. The average age of unexposed workers was 30 years and 33 years for those exposed, average schooling for both groups was 8 years, and the mean duration of exposure was 7 years. The NCTB, which assesses central nervous system functions, is composed of seven tests that measure simple motor function, short-term memory, eye-hand coordination, affective behavior, and psychomotor perception and speed. The battery includes: profile of mood states (POMS); Simple Reaction Time for attention and response speed; Digit Span for auditory memory; Santa Ana manual dexterity; Digit-Symbol for perceptual motor speed; the Benton visual retention for visual perception and memory; and Pursuit Aiming II for motor steadiness. In each of 13 subtests, the exposed group had a poorer performance than the nonexposed group. The range of differences in mean performance was between 5% and 89%, particularly in POMS (tension-anxiety, anger-hostility, depression-rejection, fatigue-inertia, confusion-bewilderment), Simple Reaction Time, Digit-Symbol, and Santa Ana Pegboard (p < .05). In multivariate regression analyses, controlling for the effects of age, sex, and education, significantly poorer performance in the exposed was found for tension-anxiety, hostility, depression, and confusion moods in the POMS, and in digit-symbol and simple reaction time (p < .05). These alterations were also dose-related using years of exposure in analyses of covariance. Compared to the nonexposed, the exposed subjects demonstrated an increased frequency of subjective symptoms of fatigue, difficulties with memory, confusion, paresthesias in upper and lower extremities, and sleep disturbances. We conclude that the methodology is applicable to the population studied. The tests of the NCTB were accepted by the subjects and were administered satisfactorily, except for occasional difficulties in verbal comprehension in subtests of POMS, which is the only test that requires more demanding verbal skills. The magnitude of the behavioral deficits is consistent with the probable high level of exposure and with the range of deficits previously reported in workers with long-term solvent exposures.

MeSH terms

  • Adhesives / adverse effects*
  • Adult
  • Affect / drug effects
  • Attention / drug effects
  • Central Nervous System / drug effects*
  • Chemical Industry*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Memory, Short-Term / drug effects
  • Motor Skills / drug effects
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects
  • Reaction Time / drug effects
  • Solvents / adverse effects*
  • Venezuela
  • Visual Perception / drug effects
  • World Health Organization


  • Adhesives
  • Solvents