OBJECTIVES--The purpose was to study the effects on the nervous system in welders exposed to aluminium and manganese. METHODS--The investigation included questionnaires on symptoms, psychological methods (simple reaction time, finger tapping speed and endurance, digit span, vocabulary, tracking, symbol digit, cylinders, olfactory threshold, Luria-Nebraska motor scale), neurophysiological methods (electroencephalography, event related auditory evoked potential (P-300), brainstem auditory evoked potential, and diadochokinesometry) and assessments of blood and urine concentrations of metals (aluminium, lead, and manganese). RESULTS--The welders exposed to aluminium (n = 38) reported more symptoms from the central nervous system than the control group (n = 39). They also had a decreased motor function in five tests. The effect was dose related in two of these five tests. The median exposure of aluminium welders was 7065 hours and they had about seven times higher concentrations of aluminium in urine than the controls. The welders exposed to manganese (n = 12) had a decreased motor function in five tests. An increased latency of event related auditory evoked potential was also found in this group. The median manganese exposure was 270 hours. These welders did not have higher concentrations of manganese in blood than the controls. CONCLUSIONS--The neurotoxic effects found in the groups of welders exposed to aluminium and manganese are probably caused by the aluminium and manganese exposure, respectively. These effects indicate a need for improvements in the work environments of these welders.
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