Neurobehavioral evaluation of soil and structural fumigators using methyl bromide and sulfuryl fluoride

W. K. Anger, L. Moody, J. Burg, W. S. Brightwell, B. J. Taylor, J. M. Russo, N. Dickerson, J. V. Setzer, B. L. Johnson, K. Hicks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Neurobehavioral functions affected by methyl bromide exposure were evaluated in California structural and soil fumigators using methyl bromide and sulfuryl fluoride. Sampling data revealed that structural fumigators are exposed for up to 1.5 hrs/day to 0-2.2 ppm methyl bromide and/or 10-200 ppm sulfuryl fluoride, and soil fumigators can be exposed to 2.3 ppm methyl bromide over an 8-hr day. Subjects were grouped for statistical analysis on the basis of exposure history: (a) Those exposed primarily (80% or more of the work period with exposure potential) to methyl bromide (N=32), (b) primarily to sulfuryl fluoride (24), or (c) to a combination of methyl bromide and sulfuryl fluoride (40-60% of each) for a minimum of one year (18) and (d) those not exposed high concentrations of any chemicals (29 Referents). Fumigators using methyl bromide reported a significantly higher prevalence of 18 symptoms consistent with methyl bromide toxicity than did Referents. Methyl bromide fumigators did not perform as well as Referents on 23 of 27 behavioral tests (chosen to reflect methyl bromide effects), and were significantly lower on one test of finger sensitivity and one of cognitive performance. These consistent differences suggest that even the low levels of methyl bromide found in fumigation today may produce slight neurotoxic effects. The greater number of symptoms and reduced performance on all cognitive tests in sulfuryl fluoride fumigators compared to the Reference Group plus the absence of published research on this compound suggest that the data base for sulfuryl fluoride is inadequate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-156
Number of pages20
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1986
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Toxicology


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