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Neurotoxin

Definition

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A neurotoxin is a toxic agent or substance that inhibits, damages or destroys the tissues of the nervous system, especially neurons, the conducting cells of your body's central nervous system. This is an example of a cytotoxin.

Neurotoxic is the adjective form. For example, organophosphates are neurotoxic pesticides.

Neurotoxicity is a form of toxicity caused by a neurotoxin.

Neurotoxicology studies the effects of toxic substances on the nervous system. A neurotoxicologist is one who studies neurotoxins and their effects.

Additional Info

Neurotoxic effects cover a wide range including behavior changes, seizures, altered sensations, tingling or numbness in the limbs, memory loss, and even death. See the links under Further Reading for specifics.

One unfortunately common neurotoxin is the linear chain alkane, n-hexane, a commonly used solvent and degreaser. OSHA's permissible exposure limit of 500 ppm for this material is believed by some experts to be at least an order of magnitude too high to adequately protect workers. The other (branched) isomers of n-hexane do not exhibit neurotoxicity, so consider switching one of those or heptane to avoid workplace exposure. Detailed information can be found in ATSDR's Toxicological Profile for n-Hexane.

Heavy metals such as lead are another common class of neurotoxins.

SDS Relevance

Safety Data Sheets should warn the reader of neurotoxic dangers in Section 11 (toxicological information). Both acute and chronic (long and short-term) exposure to certain organic chemicals can cause a variety of health problems including narcosis, anesthesia, CNS (central nervous system) depression, respiratory arrest, unconsciousness, coma, and death. See the first link below for more information.

Treat neurotoxins with great respect. The potential for long-lasting or permanent effects from exposure means you should avoid the use of neurotoxins whenever possible. If you must use them, consult Section 8 (exposure controls/personal protection) of the SDS for proper controls which can minimize the number of exposed workers (such as fume hoods) as well as personal protective equipment such as respirators, gloves etc.

Further Reading

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See also: cytotoxin, poison, systemic, toxic.

Additional definitions from Google and OneLook.



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