Neurotoxicity occurs when the exposure to natural or manmade toxic substances alters the normal activity of the nervous system. This can eventually disrupt or even kill key cells that transmit and process signals in the brain and other parts of the nervous system (neurons). Individuals with certain disorders may be especially vulnerable to neurotoxicants.


Neurotoxicity can result from exposure to substances used in cancer-fighting drugs (chemotherapy), radiation treatment, drug therapies, and organ transplants. Also, neurotoxicity can result from exposure to heavy metals such as lead and mercury, certain foods and food additives, pesticides, industrial or cleaning solvents, cosmetics, and some naturally occurring substances.


Symptoms may appear immediately after exposure or be delayed. They may include:

  • Limb weakness or numbness.

  • Loss of memory, vision, or intellect.

  • Headaches.

  • Cognitive and behavioral problems.

  • Sexual dysfunction.


Treatment involves eliminating or reducing exposure to the toxic substance, followed by symptomatic and supportive therapy.