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      [Assessment of hearing impairment in workers exposed to mixtures of organic solvents in the paint and lacquer industry].

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      adverse effects, Adult, Female, Hearing Disorders, chemically induced, diagnosis, Humans, Industry, Lacquer, Male, Middle Aged, Occupational Diseases, Poland, Severity of Illness Index, Solvents

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          Clinical and experimental studies indicate a possible harmful effect of chemicals, especially organic solvents, on the hearing system. In combined exposure to noise and solvents, very common in industry, it is most likely that a synergetic action of these factors enhances the traumatising effect of exposure to noise. The aim of this study was to assess the incidence and the risk of hearing impairment in 117 paint and lacquer factory workers exposed to a mixture of organic solvents. An analysis of organic solvent mixtures reveals that xylene and ethyl acetate are their major components whose concentrations depend on individual workposts. The control group consisted of 76 workers exposed to noise exceeding, Threshold Limit Value and 125 healthy subjects exposed neither to noise nor to solvents in their occupational setting. Pure tone audiometry revealed the highest hearing thresholds in workers exposed to solvents, lower thresholds in those exposed to noise, and the lowest ones in the non-exposed individuals. Hearing loss was found in 30% of workers exposed to organic solvents, in 20% of noise-exposed subjects, and in only 6% of non-exposed subjects. The comparison of relative risk values also indicated significantly enhanced probability of hearing impairment in workers of the paint and lacquer factory (9.6; 3.2-25.6), which is even more strongly pronounced than in the group of subjects exposed to noise (4.2; 1.2-13.2). An analysis of hearing impairment risk in particular frequencies suggests that organic solvents may damage the inner ear in much greater extent than noise. The results of the study show that exposure to organic solvents may create a significant risk of hearing impairment. Therefore, further steps should be taken to include the exposed population into effective preventive programmes.

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