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Are women more sensitive than men to 2-propanol and m-xylene vapours?


Aims: To evaluate possible differences between men and women in acute health effects after controlled short term chamber exposure to vapours of two common organic solvents.

Methods: Fifty six healthy volunteers (28 per sex) were exposed to 150 ppm 2-propanol, 50 ppm m-xylene, and clean air for two hours at rest. The subjects rated symptoms on a visual analogue scale before, during, and after the exposure. Blinking frequency was measured continuously during exposure. Pulmonary function, nasal swelling, inflammatory markers (lysozyme, eosinophilic cationic potein, myeloperoxidase, albumin) in nasal lavage and colour vision (Lanthony D-15 desaturated panel) were measured before and at 0 and 3 hours after the exposure.

Results: There were no significant sex differences in response to solvent exposure with respect to blinking frequency, lung diffusing capacity, nasal area and volume, inflammatory markers in nasal lavage, and colour vision. Increased symptoms were rated by both sexes for nearly all 10 questions during exposure to 2-propanol or m-xylene, most increases being significant at one time point at least. The rating of “discomfort in the throat or airways” increased more in women during exposure to 2-propanol or m-xylene. During exposure to 2-propanol the rating of “fatigue” was more increased in men after one hour, but more increased in women after two hours of exposure. With regard to pulmonary function, women had small but significant decreases in FVC, FEV1/FVC, and FEF75 three hours after exposure to m-xylene, but only the decrease in FVC was significantly different from that in men.

Conclusion: Our results suggest that women are slightly more sensitive than men to the acute irritative effects of 2-propanol and m-xylene vapours.

  • acute effects
  • 2-propanol
  • sex
  • m-xylene
  • ANOVA, analysis of variance
  • CCI, Colour Confusion Index
  • CNS, central nervous system
  • DLCO, diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide in the lung
  • ECP, eosinophilic cationic protein
  • EMG, electromyography
  • FEF, forced expiratory flow
  • FEV1, forced expiratory volume in one second
  • FVC, forced vital capacity
  • MPO, myeloperoxidase
  • OEL, occupational exposure limit
  • PEF, peak expiratory flow
  • TLV, threshold limit value
  • VAS, visual analogue scale
  • VC, vital capacity

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