Nervous System Degeneration Produced by the Industrial Solvent Methyl n-Butyl Ketone

Peter S. Spencer, Herbert H. Schaumburg, Robert L. Raleigh, Clarence J. Terhaar

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135 Scopus citations


Because of a number of cases of peripheral neuropathy that occurred in factory workers employed in a fabricprinting plant in 1973, chronic inhalation experiments have been conducted using the printing-ink solvents methyl n-butyl ketone (MBK) and methyl iso-butyl ketone (MIBK). After four months of intermittent respiratory exposure to 1,300 parts per million (ppm) MBK, all six rats tested developed severe symmetric weakness in the hindlimbs. Morphological studies showed massive focal axonal enlargements containing abnormally large numbers of neurofilaments and dying-back axonal degeneration in peripheral and central nerve fibers. Six rats similarly exposed for five months to 1,500 ppm of MIBK showed minimal distal axonal change, but remained neurologically intact. The principal conclusion of this study is that MBK is a neurotoxin in rats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-222
Number of pages4
JournalArchives of Neurology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1975
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Neurology


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