Although organic solvents are often used in agricultural operations, neurotoxic effects of solvent exposure have not been extensively studied among farmers. The current analysis examined associations between questionnaire-based metrics of organic solvent exposure and depressive symptoms among farmers.


Results from 692 male Agricultural Health Study participants were analyzed. Solvent type and exposure duration were assessed by questionnaire. An “ever-use” variable and years of use categories were constructed for exposure to gasoline, paint/lacquer thinner, petroleum distillates, and any solvent. Depressive symptoms were ascertained with the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D); scores were analyzed separately as continuous (0–60) and dichotomous (≥16) variables. Multivariate linear and logistic regression models were used to estimate crude and adjusted associations between measures of solvent exposure and CES-D score.


Forty-one percent of the sample reported some solvent exposure. The mean CES-D score was 6.5 (SD 6.4; median 5; range 0–44); 92% of the sample had a score below 16. After adjusting for covariates, statistically significant associations were observed between ever-use of any solvent, long duration of any solvent exposure, ever-use of gasoline, ever-use of petroleum distillates, and short duration of petroleum distillate exposure and continuous CES-D score (p < 0.05). Although nearly all associations were positive, fewer statistically significant associations were observed between metrics of solvent exposure and the dichotomized CES-D variable.


Solvent exposures were associated with depressive symptoms among farmers. Efforts to limit exposure to organic solvents may reduce the risk of depressive symptoms among farmers.

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Published in International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, v. 90, issue 8, p. 849-857.

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

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This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health. The final authenticated version is available online at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00420-017-1245-8.

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Funding Information

This work was supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (R01-ES013067-03), the intramural research program of the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (Z01-ES049030), and National Cancer Institute (Z01-CP010119).