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Ethylbenzene-Induced Hearing Loss, Neurobehavioral Function, and Neurotransmitter Alterations in Petrochemical Workers

Zhang, Ming MD; Wang, Yanrang MD; Wang, Qian MD; Yang, Deyi MD; Zhang, Jingshu MD; Wang, Fengshan MD; Gu, Qing MD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: September 2013 - Volume 55 - Issue 9 - p 1001–1006
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31829f3142
Original Articles

Objective: To estimate hearing loss, neurobehavioral function, and neurotransmitter alteration induced by ethylbenzene in petrochemical workers.

Methods: From two petrochemical plants, 246 and 307 workers exposed to both ethylbenzene and noise were recruited—290 workers exposed to noise only from a power station plant and 327 office personnel as control group, respectively. Hearing and neurobehavioral functions were evaluated. Serum neurotransmitters were also determined.

Results: The prevalence of hearing loss was much higher in petrochemical groups than that in power station and control groups (P < 0.05). Compared with the control group, scores of neurobehavioral function reflecting learning and memory were decreased in petrochemical workers (P < 0.05), as well as acetylcholinesterase activity. Negative correlation was shown between neurobehavioral function and acetylcholinesterase.

Conclusions: Ethylbenzene exposure might be associated with hearing loss, neurobehavioral function impairment, and imbalance of neurotransmitters.

Supplemental Digital Content is Available in the Text.

From the Tianjin Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Drs M. Zhang, Y. Wang, D. Yang, J. Zhang, F. Wang, and Q. Gu), Tianjin, China; and Tianjin Institute of Medical and Pharmaceutical Science (Dr Q. Wang), Tianjin, China.

Address correspondence to: Yanrang Wang, MD and Qing Gu, MD, Tianjin Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tianjin 300011, China ( (

The research protocol was approved by the Ethics and Human Subject Committee of Tianjin Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Supplemental digital contents are available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text and are provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal's Web site (

Authors Zhang, Wang, Wang, Yang, Zhang, Wang, and Gu have no relationships/conditions/circumstances that present potential conflict of interest.

The JOEM editorial board and planners have no financial interest related to this research.

Copyright © 2013 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine