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Last updated January 1, 2014

Clinical and Immunological Responses in Subjects Sensitive to Solvents

Colin H. Little, et al., Archives of Environmental Health, January/February 1999

"Twenty patients proved sensitive to a 15-min. exposure to 15 ppm toluene. We assessed patients neuropsychologically before and after toluene exposure, and they had impaired  cognitive functioning characterized by a deterioration in short- and long-term memory and psychomotor coordination. We measured total immunoglubulin G and T-cell antigen-binding molecules against an antigen prepared by conjugation of para-aminobenzoic acid to human serum albumin in 20 patients and 16 controls.  There was no significant difference in the immunoglobulin G levels to the antigen in the 2 groups, but the levels of T-cell antigen-binding molecules against the para-aminobenzoic acid conjugated to human serum albumin were elevated significantly in subjects sensitive to toluene.  We also found significant associations between T-cell antigen-binding molecule levels and (a) decreased performance on the STROOP (Colour Word) test, (b) a shift in focal length following toluene exposure, (c) clinical assessment of disability, and (d) longer histories of chemical exposure.  The measurement of T-cell antigen-binding molecules against chemical haptens may be valuable in the assessment of patients who are sensitive to chemicals."

In the discussion section of this article, the authors write the following:

In this study, the results of neuropsychological tests demonstrated an adverse effect on cognitive functioning in the patient group that was exposed to toluene.  This result was most apparent in tests that evaluated immediate and delayed memory, but the effect was also apparent in psychomotor coordination and attention tests.  These changes were significant, especially in the case of memory functioning.  Performances on the tests conducted subsequent to chemical challenge versus before challenge could not be attributed to depression, inasmuch as this condition would have existed both before and after the challenge.  Given that the differences following challenge exceeded what we could attribute to statistical variation, our findings show that a controlled exposure to the test chemical toluene, at a level well below the toxic range, can cause adverse reactions in sensitive individuals."  (p. 11)

Two additional comments from this article follow:

"The nature and function of TABMs (T-cell antigen-binding molecules) in the immunological armamentarium has not been clarified."  (p. 13)

"If further studies demonstrate that antigen-specific TABMs are associated with clinical symptoms on exposure to a particular chemical or its metabolites, this may indicate support for a biological basis for chemical sensitivity and may promote acceptance of the disorder as a clinical problem."  (p. 13)




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