The neurotoxicity of methylene chloride (MC) is of special interest because of its acute effects on the central nervous system (CNS) and its metabolic conversion to carbon monoxide. A cohort study of retired airline mechanics was conducted to examine the hypothesis that long term exposure to MC results in lasting effects on the CNS. Retirees were studied to eliminate effects of current occupational exposures. The total retiree population (n = 1758) was surveyed to identify mechanics who met specific occupational, demographic, and medical criteria. A group of eligible retirees having long term exposure to MC and another group with low probability of exposure to solvents were given a comprehensive battery of physiological and psychological tests. The exposure groups were similar for all potential confounders that were measured. No statistically significant differences between groups were detected on outcome measures, although subtle differences in attention and memory were identified. Thus no firm evidence was found to support the hypothesis of lasting CNS effects in retired mechanics with long term exposure to MC.
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