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Solvent Exposure and Cognitive Ability at Age 67: A Follow-Up Study of the 1947 Scottish Mental Survey.
  1. Finlay D Dick1,*,
  2. Victoria J Bourne2,
  3. Sean Semple1,
  4. Helen C Fox1,
  5. Brian G Miller3,
  6. Ian J Deary4,
  7. Lawrence J Whalley1
  1. 1 University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom;
  2. 2 University of Dundee, United Kingdom;
  3. 3 Institute of Occupational Medicine, United Kingdom;
  4. 4 University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  1. Correspondence to: Finlay Dick, Dept of Env & Occ Medicine, Liberty Safe Work Research Centre, Department of Environmental & Occupational Medicine, Liberty Safe Work Research Centre, University of Aberdeen, Foresterhill Road, Aberdeen, AB25 2ZP, United Kingdom; f.dick{at}


Objectives: Organic solvent exposure may be associated with cognitive impairment in later life although the evidence for this association is inconsistent. This study sought to examine the association between organic solvent exposure and cognitive function in later life.

Methods: A prospective longitudinal study set in Aberdeen, Scotland involved 336 men and women born in 1936 who participated in the 1947 Scottish Mental Survey. Cognitive function, aged 67 years, was measured using Trail Making Test B (TMT B), digit symbol (DS), and auditory verbal learning test (AVLT). Occupational hygienists reviewed occupational histories, blind to cognitive function, and estimated lifetime solvent exposures. Multiple regression analyses were employed to explore the association between solvent exposure and cognitive performance after adjustment for confounders.

Results: After adjusting for childhood IQ, smoking, alcohol and sex, the solvent-exposed group took on average almost 10 seconds longer than the unexposed to complete TMT B, a highly significant difference. For DS, after adjusting for childhood IQ, smoking and gender, the exposed group scored on average two points lower than the unexposed, again highly significant. There was no evidence of an effect for cumulative solvent exposure on TMT B or DS. For AVLT there were no significant differences associated with exposure.

Conclusions: This study, of subjects with generally low exposures, found no clear evidence of an association between solvent exposure and cognitive function.

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