Toxins Damage The Immature Brain – A Review

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The Brain is a highly sensitive collection of tissues about which much is known. However a greater proportion of understanding is yet to be elucidated. One of the areas of interest, especially as the burden of psychological problems continues to grow is in the effects of exogenous toxins on the formation and function of the brain.

The WHO recognises that the burden of mental ill health will continue to grow and may become the second biggest health complaint by 2020. The increasing data sets supporting the role of nutrition and toxicity being either causes or aggravants means that we as nutritional therapists will see an increasing number of patients presenting hungry for specialist knowledge to reduce the burden of their mental ill health.

The place to start is prior to conception as this represents the greatest area of opportunity for resolution and or prevention of potential future brain contaminants. The foetal brain is also far more sensitive to injury than an adult brain. At this stage it is calculated that a remarkable 1 in 6 children have a developmental disability, many of which involve the nervous system.

Neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, attention deficit disorder, mental retardation, and cerebral palsy are common, costly, and can cause lifelong disability. Their causes are mostly unknown. A few industrial chemicals (eg, lead, methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls [PCBs], arsenic, and toluene) are recognised causes of neurodevelopmental disorders and subclinical brain dysfunction. Exposure to these chemicals during early foetal development can cause brain injury at doses much lower than those affecting adult brain function.

This review published in 2006 in the internationally renowned journal the Lancet, explores the state of risk for injury to the brain from environmental chemicals and makes some conservative recommendations.

Grandjean P, Landrigan PJ. Developmental neurotoxicity of industrial chemicals.Lancet. 2006 Dec 16;368(9553):2167-78. View Full Paper

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