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Relation between colour vision loss and occupational styrene exposure level
  1. Y Y Gong1,
  2. R Kishi1,
  3. Y Katakura1,
  4. E Tsukishima1,
  5. K Fujiwara1,
  6. S Kasai1,
  7. T Satoh1,
  8. F Sata1,
  9. T Kawai
  1. 1Department of Public Health, Hokkaido University Graduate School of Medicine, Sapporo, Japan
  2. 2Osaka Occupational Health Service Center, Osaka 550, Japan
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr Y Y Gong, Department of Public Health, Hokkaido University Graduate School of Medicine, North 15, West 7, Sapporo 060-8638, Japan;


Aims: To investigate the relation between colour vision loss and the exposure level of styrene. Exposure level included the current exposure concentration, past cumulative exposure, and the maximum exposure level in the past.

Methods: Colour vision was examined by the Lanthony desaturated panel D-15 test for 76 subjects exposed to styrene in a fibreglass reinforced plastics boat plant (as an exposed group) and 102 non-exposed subjects (as a control group). The current exposure level was expressed by the concentration of atmospheric styrene and end shift urinary mandelic acid (MA) and phenylglyoxylic acid (PGA) levels. The individual cumulative exposure index (CEI) was calculated, based on the exposure frequency and urinary MA concentrations measured for the past eight years.

Results: The Colour Confusion Index (CCI) of the exposed group showed a significant difference from the age matched controls. However, only a slight significant relation was found between CCI and the concentration of urinary MA plus PGA. In this study, the exposed group was further divided into two subgroups (as sub-MA+PGA groups) by the median of urinary MA plus PGA of each subject. The dividing line between the subgroups was 0.24 g/g creatinine, which was equivalent to an atmospheric concentration of styrene of about 10 ppm. The CCI values of both the sub-MA+PGA groups were significantly higher than that of the control group. The relation between CCI value and the maximum exposure concentration in the past eight years was examined. It was found that the CCI values of the group with the maximum exposure concentration of styrene over 50 ppm were significantly higher than that of the other groups.

Conclusions: Exposure to styrene would impair colour vision even if the exposure concentration was lower than 10 ppm. Furthermore, if the maximum concentration of styrene exposure transiently exceeded 50 ppm in the past, the styrene related damage might remain. Thus, the safe limit of exposure to styrene and the relation between exposure to styrene and the degree of damage to ocular structure, retina, optic nerve, and brain need to be re-examined.

  • occupational exposure
  • styrene
  • colour vision
  • CCI, colour confusion index
  • CEI, cumulative exposure index
  • MA, mandelic acid
  • PGA, phenylglyoxylic acid
  • TLV, threshold limit value
  • TWA, time weighted average

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