New studies reveal that exposure to solvents from paint or glue can have long-term effects on brain function.
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health looked at brain data from more than 2,000 retired workers at a French utility company. A majority had begun working at the company in their late teens and early 20s and retired in their mid-50s.
After a series of eight memory exercises, the researchers found that the workers were still experiencing cognitive impairment from chemical exposure that occurred 30 to 50 years prior to the tests. Even more alarming was the fact that retirees who had experienced solvent exposure 12 to 30 years prior to testing had more difficulty recalling simple concepts, such as species of animals.
Erika Sabbath, the author of the study, told Time that she recommends utility workers stay in well-ventilated areas and wear masks when exposed to chemicals. "There's absolutely nothing to be lost by prevention," Sabbath said.