Organic solvent exposure and depressive symptoms among licensed pesticide applicators in the Agricultural Health Study

Although organic solvents are often used in agricultural operations, neurotoxic effects of solvent exposure have not been extensively studied among farmers. The current analysis examined associations between questionnaire-based metrics of organic solvent exposure and depressive symptoms among farmers. Results from 692 male Agricultural Health Study participants were analysed. Solvent type and exposure duration were assessed by questionnaire. An “ever-use” variable and years of use categories were constructed for exposure to gasoline, paint/lacquer thinner, petroleum distillates, and any solvent. Depressive symptoms were ascertained with the Centre for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D); scores were analysed separately as continuous (0-60) and dichotomous (<16 versus ?16) variables. Multivariate linear and logistic regression models were used to estimate crude and adjusted associations between measures of solvent exposure and CES-D score. Forty-one percent of the sample reported some solvent exposure. The mean CES-D score was 6.5 (SD 6.4; median 5; range 0-44); 92% of the sample had a score below 16. After adjusting for covariates, statistically significant associations were observed between ever-use of any solvent, long duration of any solvent exposure, ever-use of gasoline, ever-use of petroleum distillates, and short duration of petroleum distillate exposure and continuous CES-D score (p < 0.05). Although nearly all associations were positive, fewer statistically significant associations were observed between metrics of solvent exposure and the dichotomised CES-D variable. The authors concluded that solvent exposures were associated with depressive symptoms among farmers. Efforts to limit exposure to organic solvents may reduce the risk of depressive symptoms among farmers.

Authors: Siegel M, Starks SE, Sanderson WT, Kamel F, Hoppin JA, Gerr F. ; Full Source: International Archives in Occupational & Environmental Health. 2017 Jul 12. doi: 10.1007/s00420-017-1245-8. [Epub ahead of print]