Organic Solvents

Hello again all

I was diagnosed with MS in 2011, after which my doctor went through my medical history and pointed out symptoms I had reported going back to a case of drop-foot in 1991.

From 1990 to 1995 I had worked at a plastics factory, and my job included using gallons and gallons of paint thinners to clean the products, It wasn’t until 1992 that we were issued with rubber gloves - and even then it was hard to avoid getting drenched in thinners. I have seen studies that suggest that exposure to such chemicals can be a cause of MS.

Do I have a case here for employer negligence? Does anyone else have similar experiences?

I am not normally litigious, but the damage this negligence has probably caused has got my back up.


I have no experience of this myself and have no idea about employment liability…helpful i know! I have never personally heard of the link between paint thinners and MS before.

Could you speak to a solicitor to get some advice? Also i’d re-post this on the everday living board - I know there are a few people there who may be able to help you.

Best of luck


Hi Bostick,

Like you, I’ve seen some evidence linking MS to exposure to industrial solvents. However, I do not think the evidence is conclusive enough for you to have any chance at all of a successful negligence claim. Too many people get MS who have never (knowingly!) had any significant exposure to solvents, so you would find it extremely difficult (I believe impossible) to prove causation (an essential element of a negligence claim) - i.e. that your MS definitely came about as a result of the chemical exposure, and not spontaneously, like the thousands of others who have never worked with chemicals.

It’s not enough that you handled solvents AND you got MS. You’d have to prove one caused the other, and while we still don’t know the exact causes of MS, I think that’s going to be an insurmountable obstacle. Even if you could produce expert evidence it increased your risk, that still wouldn’t be the same as proving it caused it.

My father died of mesothelioma - a rare form of cancer that does not occur in nature, and has only EVER been linked with asbestos exposure. In his case, he was able to sue successfully for negligence, because, like you, he had worked at a plastics factory, where he had knowingly been exposed to asbestos. The chances of his cancer NOT having anything to do with that were so remote there wasn’t really any case to make - it’s pretty much accepted that if you have mesothelioma, you got it from asbestos, as even those with no known history of exposure can usually have asbestos fibres isolated from the lining of their lungs at post mortem. This is in stark contrast with MS, where it cannot be shown that cases have anything that is “always” present, meaning it must be the cause. An employer could not be held liable for something that might have happened anyway.

I know this is not the answer you are hoping for, but I think it’s the harsh reality.

Incidentally, my father also had colon cancer. He and I both strongly suspected that too was linked to the asbestos exposure - evidence shows rates are higher among asbestos workers (makes sense if some particles were breathed, lodging in the lungs, but others swallowed, ending up in the colon).

However, because colon cancer, unlike mesothelioma, is common in the general population, we could not sue for that too, because we wouldn’t be able to prove it wasn’t just coincidence. Do you see the difference?


Thank you Tina. I spoke to my GP tonight and he gave me the same conclusion. He said that even though the chain of events were convincing, I would have an impossible task to prove it. I suppose it is more about trying to work it out myself than making a claim. I suppose other sufferers must wonder how and when it happened, and few would have a definitive answer. Thanks anyway.

Hi Bostick,

Yeah, you’re right. I think: “Why me?” has to be one of the commonest questions everyone asks themselves. I think it’s been clear for some time that the causes of MS are many and complex, and it’s not going to be any single thing.

Factors that have been shown to increase risks include smoking, being female, vitamin D deficiency, being born in Spring, living at higher latitudes, having Scottish ancestry, and having a blood relative with MS! However, none of these is the cause, as many people have some or all of them, but still don’t get MS…

I think the important thing is not to beat yourself up, and think that if you’d made different career choices, or lived your life differently, this might have been avoided. That is by no means clear. Neuros are in fact supposed to reassure patients at diagnosis that it’s nothing they did, but not all of them seem to bother.

In my case, I learnt shortly after diagnosis that we’d had another MS case in the family, that I hadn’t previously been aware of. So I do feel our family carried the seeds that meant we were ALL slightly more likely to get it. But it still wasn’t the cause, as most of us were fine. I was just the one that wasn’t.


My family went through similar thoughts and discussions a few years ago.

My dad has Parkinson’s Disease. The causes of Parkinsons are thought to vary from person to person, but it appears likely that genetics, and in some cases, environmental toxins, - including among other things, certain pesticides - may play a role . When my dad was first diagnosed, he spent a lot of time very focused on the ‘environmental toxins’ / pesticides question, because as a young man, he worked on a farm. But the reality is that we will never know, and when he talked about it with his neurologist, his neurologist told him that if there was a clear-cut, provable link between the pesticides used on the farm and Parkinsons, it is likely that a lot more people on the farm… and indeed, all over the country… would have developed the disease. The neurologist went on to say that even though certain environmental toxins may play a part in the development of Parkinsons in some people, it would be very difficult to say whether any one particular toxin triggered the disease in his particular case (as over the course of his lifetime he would have come into contact with myriad other toxins, many of which he may have been completely unaware of), and it is also not possible to say whether he would have developed Parkinsons anyway, regardless of environmental exposure.

I’m not sure if this helps you in any way, but I would say that for a while my dad was quite upset about the possible link, but it is not something he spends a lot of time thinking about nowadays. I think maybe if there is no way to definitely know for sure about suspicions of this kind, thinking about them too much can be counterproductive. I dont mean to belittle your anger or suspicions in any way; rather, just to say that I understand where you’re coming from, that it is a horrible thing to have strong suspicions that may never be answered, but that it does get easier with time xxxxxx

hi bostick,

yes you are right about toxics and ms…ive been massively expoused to asbestos at work by my employer mistake and few years after i had a first attack of ms …thats becouse your lungs producing antibodies to fight for example absestos fibers or any toxic stuff in your lungs that you breathed in,then the antibodies get to you blood and they travell ,eventually they brake the blood and spine fluid barrier and they start to damage your brain cousing lesions…

ive done a lot o researching about it and i can share that with you…allready spoken to people who can help us to fight for the justice

thanks dawid