Three hundred and nine men with organic dementia, cerebral atrophy, or psycho-organic syndrome admitted for five nights or more to one of 18 Quebec hospitals were individually matched with patients admitted (1) with some other psychiatric diagnosis and (2) to a general hospital. Lifetime occupational histories were obtained by telephone. Occupational exposure to solvents was assessed blind to type of case by (1) individual ratings and (2) a job exposure matrix; men who worked in moderate or high solvent concentrations for at least 10 years were considered exposed. With the psychiatric referent series, an odds ratio of 1.4 (90% CI 1.0-2.0) was calculated by individual exposure ratings and 1.4 (90% CI 0.9-2.2) by job matrix. Increased risk was mainly in those with organic dementia or cerebral atrophy and an alcohol related diagnosis. The same pattern of risk was found against the general hospital referents. Adjustment for possible confounders did not alter the risk estimates appreciably. Also, lifetime job histories, compared in selected case-referent pairs, gave similar evidence of increased risk (odds ratio 2.3; 90% CI 1.0-5.5). It is concluded that the combined effect of occupational solvent exposure and alcohol intake is probably an important cause of organic brain damage.
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