There is growing recognition that many industrial and pharmacological agents are neurotoxic to the nervous system and its neuropsychological functions. For an agent to be considered neurotoxic it must produce an “adverse change in the structure or function of the nervous system following exposure to [that] agent” (Neurotoxicity, 1990). More than nine million individuals come into contact with neurotoxins in the workplace (Current Intelligence Bulletin, 1987). However, neurotoxic exposure is not confined to dangerous industrial environments but may also occur at home, in white-collar businesses, during voluntary substance abuse, through prescribed medication usage, or even in the foods or supplements we consume. Neurotoxic substances may be chemically manufactured (e.g., solvents) or naturally occurring (e.g., metals). Neurotoxic substances are as common and well known as lead or mercury, and as obscure as pyrethroids or cycads. There is exposure risk in certain foods, e.g., fugu, the Japanese puffer fish, which, when incorrectly prepared, is fatally neurotoxic to the unfortunate gastronome. Certain common available vitamins are neurotoxic in megadoses, and unregulated folk medicines available in Latin-American botanicas have been shown to contain mercury and other neurotoxic compounds (Wendroff, 1990). L-Tryptophan, an over-the-counter amino acid sleep aid, caused neurotoxic injury in a subset of more than 1500 individuals affected, in the form of eosinophilia myalgia syndrome, when a contaminant was apparently indroduced into the distillation process, causing central nervous system damage and multiple organ system abnormalities.
KeywordsToluene PCBs Thallium Cholinesterase Phosphite
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