Chronic or excessive exposure to organic solvents such as xylene, trichloroethylene, toluene, or hydrogen sulfide can result in cognitive dysfunction and emotional and mood disorders. Typically, people who experience such exposure work in auto body repair shops, assembly lines for machinery, and can even work as artists. Initial symptoms of headache, fatigue, and poor memory, are often experienced after work place exposure and the exposure can be as little as one week in duration.
As a result of exposure to organic solvents patients can experience significant decrements in learning and memory ability, attention, visuospatial ability, and psychomotor speed. Psychiatric disturbance, mostly commonly related to depression, has also been consistently identified in studies of such patients.
Research findings have indicated that litigation was not considered a significant variable in the patient’s test performances. Furthermore, the mood disorders noted in such patients was determined to not be causative of the other cognitive problems except with respect to visuospatial skills.
A specific neuropsychological test battery has been developed and found to be quite sensitive to the effects of organic solvent exposure in humans. An appropriate neuropsychological evaluation is the best method for identifying the extent of neurocognitive deficits presented by the patient following their exposure and to develop a treatment protocol specific to their particular condition.