Study objective: To investigate whether people with occupational exposure to organic solvents have a higher prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) than the general population and to examine the relationship between snoring and exposure to organic solvents. Design and participants: Consecutive patients, aged 30-64 years, referred during a 3-year period to the sleep laboratory at Avesta Hospital, Sweden, because of suspected OSAS made up the patient groups. Following admission, patients underwent a simplified sleep apnea investigation and were divided into two groups, OSAS (n = 320) and snorers (n = 443). A random sample of 296 men and 289 women aged 30–64 years obtained from a register of all county residents maintained by the county tax authority served as referents (controls). Both patients and referents responded to two questionnaires, including questions about occupation, exposure to organic solvents, and other chemical and physical agents. Results: Men with OSAS or snoring and women with snoring had more often been occupationally exposed to organic solvents than the referents, showing an almost twofold increase in risk for those exposed during whole workdays. For men, the risk of OSAS or snoring increased with increasing exposure. Conclusion: The result indicates that occupational exposure to organic solvents might cause sleep apnea. A new observation is that even snoring could be caused by exposure to organic solvents. It is important to elucidate whether exposure to organic solvents is a cause of OSAS, because such a finding may have important implications for prevention and treatment of sleep disturbances.

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