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Short Report
Effect of reduced use of organic solvents on disability pension in painters
  1. Bengt Järvholm1,
  2. Alex Burdorf2
  1. 1 Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden
  2. 2 Department of Public Health, Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Professor Bengt Järvholm, Umeå University, SE 901 87 Umeå, Sweden; bengt.jarvholm{at}


Objective To investigate whether the decreased use of paints based on organic solvents has caused a decreased risk for neuropsychiatric disorders in painters by studying their incidence in disability pensions.

Methods The incidence of disability pension in Swedish painters who had participated in health examinations between 1971 and 1993 was studied through linkage with Swedish registers of disability pension over 1971–2010 and compared with the incidence in other construction workers as woodworkers, concrete workers and platers. When phasing out began in the 1970s, about 40% of paints were based on organic solvents and it had decreased to 4% in 1990s. The analysis was adjusted for age, time period, body mass index and smoking.

Results The painters (n=23 065) had an increased risk of disability pension due to neurological diagnosis (n=285, relative risk (RR) 1.92, 95% CI 1.67 to 2.20) and psychiatric diagnosis (n=632, RR=1.61, 95 % CI 1.42 to 1.82). For neurological disorders there was a time trend with a continuously decreasing risk from 1980 onwards, but there was no such trend for psychiatric disorders.

Conclusions High exposure to organic solvents increased the risk for disability pension in neurological disorders, and the risk decreased when the use of organic solvents decreased. The painters also had an increased risk of disability pension due to psychiatric disorders, but the causes have to be further investigated.

  • Solvents
  • Painters
  • Disability

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  • Contributors Both authors have been involved in design, analysis and writing of the manuscript.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Regional Ethical Review Board Umeå.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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