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Workplace Solvents and Long-Term Memory Problems

Study of French retirees shows those exposed even decades ago scored worse on tests

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The higher rate of thinking problems matters, he added, because it gives people a mental handicap going into old age when they're already prone to declines in thinking.

What to do? Sabbath said the chemicals are common in American workplaces, appearing in 12-13 percent of them. "Given that things like dementia and Alzheimer's disease are on the rise and there's no known cure, it's important that we prevent cognitive problems," she said. "Wear a respirator if you're working with one of these chemicals, or use safer versions of paint or paint thinner."

Better regulations are the best ways to prevent problems, she added, but the current "maximum permissible exposure level may be too high to completely protect workers. This puts the onus on employers to protect their workers either by eliminating the exposure altogether or, if they can't eliminate it, by providing adequate protective equipment to their workers and enforcing its use."

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