A screening programme on chronic solvent-induced encephalopathy among Dutch painters

Ton Spee, Evelien van Valen, Cor van Duivenbooden, Gert Van der Laan

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Long-term exposure to organic solvents may lead to chronic solvent induced encephalopathy (CSE) in painters. In combination with reduction of exposure, a workers' health surveillance programme was developed, resulting in a three-stage CSE screening procedure for early neurobehavioural changes possibly predicting chronic health effects. The screening consists of a questionnaire (Neurosymptom Screening Checklist 60, NSC-60), computerised neurobehavioural functioning testing (Neurobehavioural Evaluation System; NES2) and multidisciplinary differential diagnostic evaluation by experts (called 'Solvent Team'). Results from the screening were compared with the results of the 'care as usual' (CAU), in which symptomatic patients were referred directly to the Solvent Team by occupational physicians, general practitioners or medical specialists. Parallel to the screening programme, a legal ban on indoor use of solvent-based paints resulted in lower exposure to solvents. Objective: To investigate the usefulness of the NSC-60 questionnaire as a screening tool for CSE among painters and to investigate the course of the number of CSE cases over the years as a potential consequence of improved prevention and control. Results: From 1998 to 2004, more than 40,000 painters were invited to participate in a health surveillance programme including a periodical occupational health examination (PHE) and 50% did participate. Four percent (N = 794) of these had a positive score on the NSC-60. The Solvent Team assessed 101 of these for CSE, which resulted in 27 CSE cases diagnosed. CAU during the same period of the surveillance (1998-2004) yielded 619 painters and 75 of these had the diagnosis CSE. After 2002 the number of CSE diagnosed cases dropped considerably and in 2004 only one case of CSE could be diagnosed. The substantially lower prevalence of CSE diagnosed cases in painters after 2002 might partly be explained as a result of a successful participation in the screening procedure of most prevalent CSE cases during the years 1998-2002. A second reason for the reduction of new diagnosed cases of CSE can be the effectiveness of the ban on indoor use of solvent-based paints resulting in lower exposure levels at work. Conclusion: The screening procedure is useful to screen for CSE among people taking part in the PHE programme. Control of CSE can be achieved by an integrated preventive approach with reduction of exposure and screening on early health effects. (C) 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)727-733
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Cite this