Solvents and Fuels

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Although exposures to organic solvents and fuels are not specific for agricultural settings, they represent typical health risks for farmers. Solvents and fuels not only are used in repair and maintenance work, as in painters or cleaners, but also are often the basis for the preparation of pesticide solutions for spraying. Especially for sprayed solvents, exposure through inhalation or skin contact not only of vapors but also of aerosols is possible. Depending on the substance used, the hepatotoxic potency of the solvent can be more relevant than that of the active ingredient pesticide. This aspect is often neglected in the discussion of health findings in pesticide sprayers, not least because of the difficulty of differentiating between the effects of single factors in complex mixtures. To enable an educated guess of the possible solvent-related health risk for farmers, experience from typically solventexposed professionals like degreasers, printers, painters, and paint manufacturers may serve as a model. Here, on average, subclinical effects have been described on liver and kidney function. However, except from some specific agents like AA'-dimethylformamide or several chlorinated hydrocarbons, the hepatotoxicity and nephrotoxicity of organic solvents should not be overrated (30-34).

Many similar studies have not found any demonstrable solvent effect on liver and kidney even in comparatively highly exposed subjects, and liver-related findings often were more closely associated with individual alcohol consumption than with occupational solvent exposure. Taken together, the findings of slight effects on kidney and liver, if any, in heavily solventexposed workers other than farmers is consistent with the generally low reported rates of liver or kidney damage in farmers, who have much lower solvent exposure (35-38).

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