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Occupational and other risk factors for hand-grip strength: the Honolulu-Asia Aging Study
  1. L E Charles1,
  2. C M Burchfiel1,
  3. D Fekedulegn1,
  4. M L Kashon1,
  5. G W Ross2,3,4,5,
  6. W T Sanderson6,
  7. H Petrovitch2,3,4,5
  1. 1Biostatistics and Epidemiology Branch, Health Effects Laboratory Division, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morgantown, WV, USA
  2. 2Veterans Affairs Pacific Islands Health Care System, Honolulu, HI, USA
  3. 3The Pacific Health Research Institute, Honolulu, HI, USA
  4. 4Departments of Geriatric Medicine and Medicine, John A Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI, USA
  5. 5Kuakini Medical Center and the Honolulu-Asia Aging Study, Honolulu, HI, USA
  6. 6Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, the University of Iowa College of Public Health, Iowa City, IA, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr L E Charles
 National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, HELD/BEB, MS L-4050, Morgantown, WV 26505-2888, USA; lcharles{at}


Background: In certain occupations, including farm work, workers are exposed to hazardous substances, some of which are known to be toxic to the nervous system and may adversely affect muscle strength. Measurement of hand-grip strength may be useful for detecting neurotoxic exposure.

Methods: The authors studied 3522 participants of the Honolulu Heart Program and the Honolulu-Asia Aging Study to determine whether occupational exposures to pesticides, solvents, and metals assessed at exam I (1965–68) are associated with hand-grip strength at exam IV (1991–93) and change in hand-grip strength over 25 years. Correlation, analysis of variance and covariance, and linear regression were used to evaluate the associations.

Results: At exam IV, participants ranged in age from 71–93 years; mean hand-grip strength was 39.6 kg at exam I and 30.3 kg at exam IV. Over 25 years, the decline in hand-grip strength was an average of 8–9 kg for all exposures. Hand-grip strength was inversely associated with age and glucose but directly associated with cognitive function, BMI, and haemoglobin level. No other exposures were associated with hand-grip strength.

Conclusion: This study did not provide evidence that occupational exposure to pesticides, solvents, and metals adversely affected hand-grip strength in this population, but confirmed other important associations with hand-grip strength.

  • BMI, body mass index
  • CASI, Cognitive Abilities Screening Index Instrument
  • HAAS, Honolulu-Asia Aging Study
  • HHP, Honolulu Heart Program
  • MMSE, Mini-Mental State Examination
  • NIOSH, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
  • PEL, permissible exposure limit
  • PPE, personal protection equipment
  • hand strength
  • occupational exposures
  • aging

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  • Published Online First 15 August 2006

  • Competing interests: none.