Visual evoked potentials (VEPs) from stimulation by checkerboard pattern reversal were examined in 54 rotogravure printers exposed to toluene (all men, aged 22-64 years, duration of exposure 1-41 years). A control group consisted of 46 subjects (23 men and 23 women; aged 22-54 years). Compared with controls the exposed group showed more frequent responses with reduced reproducibility or absence of some waves, or both; the mean P1 wave latency was prolonged and mean amplitudes N1P1 and P1N2 were reduced. The VEPs were abnormal in 24% of workers. The frequency of abnormal VEPs correlated positively with the duration of exposure to toluene and also with the degree of alcohol drinking. No association was found between measurements of VEP and electroencephalogram (EEG) or electromyogram (EMG) examinations. A VEP measurement was made in 78% of the exposed workers two years after the first examination. No statistically significant difference between the two results was found. This suggests a marked stability of the observed VEP changes. These changes can be interpreted as a subclinical sign of dysfunction of the central nervous system (CNS) related to exposure to toluene and also to alcohol consumption.
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