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Environmental Styrene Exposure and Sensory and Motor Function in Gulf Coast Residents

Citation

Werder, Emily J.; Sandler, Dale P.; Richardson, David B.; Emch, Michael E.; Kwok, Richard K.; Gerr, Fredric E.; & Engel, Lawrence S. (2019). Environmental Styrene Exposure and Sensory and Motor Function in Gulf Coast Residents. Environmental Health Perspectives, 127(4), 47006. PMCID: PMC6785236

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Although styrene is an established neurotoxicant at occupational exposure levels, its neurotoxicity has not been characterized in relation to general population exposures. Further, occupational research to date has focused on central nervous system impairment. OBJECTIVE: We assessed styrene-associated differences in sensory and motor function among Gulf coast residents.
METHODS: We used 2011 National Air Toxics Assessment estimates of ambient styrene to determine exposure levels for 2,956 nondiabetic Gulf state residents enrolled in the Gulf Long-term Follow-up Study, and additionally measured blood styrene concentration in a subset of participants 1 to 2 y after enrollment ([Formula: see text]). Participants completed an enrollment telephone interview and a comprehensive test battery to assess sensory and motor function during a clinical follow-up exam 2 to 4 y later. Detailed covariate information was ascertained at enrollment via telephone interview. We used multivariate linear regression to estimate continuous differences in sensory and motor function, and log-binomial regression to estimate prevalence ratios for dichotomous outcomes. We estimated associations of both ambient and blood styrene exposures with sensory and motor function, independently for five unique tests.
RESULTS: Those participants in the highest 25% vs. lowest 75% of ambient exposure and those in the highest 10% vs. lowest 90% of blood styrene had slightly diminished visual contrast sensitivity. Mean vibrotactile thresholds were lower among those in the highest vs. lowest quartile of ambient styrene and the highest 10% vs. lowest 90% of blood styrene ([Formula: see text] log microns; 95% CI: [Formula: see text], [Formula: see text] and [Formula: see text] log microns; 95% CI: [Formula: see text], [Formula: see text], respectively). The highest vs. lowest quartile of ambient styrene was associated with significantly poorer postural stability, and (unexpectedly) with significantly greater grip strength.
DISCUSSION: We observed associations between higher styrene exposure and poorer visual, sensory, and vestibular function, though we did not detect associations with reduced voluntary motor system performance. Associations were more consistent for ambient exposures, but we also found notable associations with measured blood styrene. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP3954.

URL

http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp3954

Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published

2019

Journal Title

Environmental Health Perspectives

Author(s)

Werder, Emily J.
Sandler, Dale P.
Richardson, David B.
Emch, Michael E.
Kwok, Richard K.
Gerr, Fredric E.
Engel, Lawrence S.

PMCID

PMC6785236