Research Study #3

Neuropsycholological Effects of Low-Level Manganese Exposure in Welders

Laohaudomchok, W; Lin, X; Herrick, RF; Fang, S; Cavallari, JM; Shrairman, R; Landau, A; Christiani, DC; Weisskopf, MG

While the neuropsychological effects of highmanganese (Mn) exposure in occupational settings are well known, the effects of lower levels of exposure are less understood. In this study, we investigated the neuropsychological effects of lower level occupational Mn exposure in 46 male welders (mean age = 37.4, S.D. = 11.7 years). Each welders' cumulative Mn exposure indices (Mn-CEI) for the past 12 months and total work history Mn exposure were constructed based on air Mn measurements and work histories. The association between these exposure indices and performance on cognitive, motor control, and psychological tests was examined. In addition, among a subset of welders (n = 24) who completed the tests both before and after a work shift, we examined the association between cross-shift Mn exposure assessed from personal monitoring and acute changes in test scores.

Mn exposures in this study (median = 12.9 micro-g/m3) were much lower, as compared to those observed in other similar studies. Increasing total Mn-CEI was significantly associated with slower reaction time on the continuous performance test (CPT; p < 0.01), as well as worse mood for several scales on the Profile of Mood States (POMS; confused, tired, and a composite of tired and energetic, all p < 0.03). Increasing Mn-CEI over the previous 12 months was significantly associated with worse mood on the sad, tense, and confused POMS scales (all p < 0.03) and the association with worse CPT performance approached significance (p = 0.10). Higher Mn exposure over the course of a workday was associated with worse performance on the CPT test across the day (p = 0.06) as well as declines in fine motor control over the work-shift (p = 0.04), adjusting for age and time between the 2 tests. Our study suggests that even at relatively low Mn exposure levels neuropsychological effects may manifest particularly with respect to attention, mood, and fine motor control.

( Published in NeuroToxicology, 2011; 32(2): 171-179 )

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