We investigated a possible causal relation between exposure to organic solvents in Danish workers (housepainters, typographers/printers, carpenters/cabinetmakers) and onset of multiple sclerosis. Data on men included in the Danish Multiple Sclerosis Register (3,241 men) were linked with data from the 1970 census from the National Bureau of Statistics in Denmark, which has data on occupational status for 1,768,846 men between 15 and 74 years of age.
From this census, we ascertained a group of 124,766 "solvent-exposed" men and an "unexposed" group of 87,501 male electricians, bricklayers, and butchers. Over a follow-up period of 20 years, we observed no increase in the incidence of multiple sclerosis among men presumed to be exposed to organic solvents. It was not possible to obtain data on potential confounders, and the study design has some potential for selection bias.
Nevertheless, the study does not support existing hypotheses regarding an association between occupational exposure to organic solvents and multiple sclerosis.