Toxic Exposure

Toxic Exposure -
Exposure to Neurotoxic Substances

Toxic exposure appears in many forms. Even everyday chemicals may be harmful depending upon your level of exposure. Some substances may damage the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and/or the peripheral nervous system (those nerves in the arms, legs, trunk and head).  These may include heavy metals, solvents, pesticides and gases.  Some of the more common types of toxic expsorure include:  lead, mercury, arsenic, manganese, organic solvent mixtures, toluene, n-hexane, carbon disulfide, trichloroethylene, acrylamide, organophosphates, carbamates, carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulfide.  The amount of toxic exposure, namely how long you are exposed and how high the level of exposure usually determines the amount of injury to the nervous system though some individuals may have other risk factors making them more sensitive to the exposure.

Symptoms of Toxic ExposureToxic Exposure

The type of symptoms depends whether the toxic exposure is acute high dose or chronic low dose.  In general with acute high dose exposure complaints may include headache, confusion, dizziness, decreased balance, memory problems, visual difficulties, difficulty with multitasking and decreased coordination with hand use.  With chronic low dose toxic exposure symptoms are frequently due to nerve problems in the extremities and therefore the complaints focus on sensory change and weakness in the hands and feet. On occasion the nerves that control blood pressure, and heart and bladder function may be affected.


A neurological examination and tests to measure the severity of the abnormalities are done.  In some cases blood and urine tests will be used to determine the level of toxic exposure. 

Treatment of Toxic Exposure

Removing yourself from toxic exposure is the most important treatment. Rest may be needed if the toxic exposure was very high. 
In some cases if indicated chelation may be appropriate, but this is not common.  COEN has a great deal of experience with toxic exposure cases and provides symptomatic treatment for each patient. Dr. Margit Bleecker is a nationally regarded expert in the field of Neurotoxicology.

Contact COEN

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Maryland Neurologist

The Center for Occupational and Environmental Neurology (COEN)
2 Hamill Road, Suite 225
Baltimore, Maryland 21210
Telephone (410) 433-2077 Fax (410) 433-0622 E-mail COEN@MSN.COM