Certain functions of the peripheral and autonomic nervous systems, and colour discrimination were examined in 45 workers (mean age 49; mean exposure to carbon disulphide (CS2) 20 years) and 37 controls (mean age 48). Conduction velocity and refractory period of the peroneal and sural nerves were determined. The conduction velocity of the slower fibres of the peroneal nerve was measured by means of an improved method that makes use of the refractory period. Function of autonomic nerves was assessed by measuring the variation in heart rate during rest, during deep breathing, and during isometric muscle contraction. Colour discrimination was evaluated by the Lanthony desaturated test. Individual cumulative exposure to CS2 was calculated on the basis of exposure in the past and individual job history. Mean cumulative exposure was 165 ppm-years. The peroneal nerves of exposed workers showed a decrease (-1.0 m/s) in conduction velocity of the slow fibres and a prolongation (0.1 ms) of the refractory period (mean 1.6 ms) compared with controls. These effects were related to cumulative exposure. No impairment of function of the sural nerve or of colour discrimination was found. The muscle heart reflex was decreased in the exposed group, but this was not related to cumulative exposure. This study has established more firmly that a decrease in conduction velocity of slow motor fibres occurs at low levels of exposure to CS2. Extrapolation of the results suggests that small effects may occur after 40 years of exposure to concentrations below the present threshold limit value (10 ppm).
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