In the workplace, fumes from solvents such as paints, glues, degreasers and adhesives have been implicated in cognitive damage – in other words, impaired thinking and memory abilities.
Now, researchers report in the journal Neurology that the detriments linked to these chemicals might last many years.
“What it shows is that these chemicals might have more long-term effects than have previously been thought, and continue to affect people long after they are retired,” said Erika Sabbath, research fellow at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies and lead author of the study.
A solvent is a substance used to dissolve another chemical.
For instance, water dissolves salt.
The solvents targeted in this study included benzene (found in detergents and plastics), chlorinated solvents (found in paint strippers and dry cleaning solutions) and petroleum solvents (found in varnish).
But note that researchers did not directly measure whether these chemicals cause brain damage.
They simply found a statistical association between impairment on tests and exposure to chemicals.
More research would be needed to prove that one directly results in the other.