Neurotoxicity of metals

Handb Clin Neurol. 2015:131:169-89. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-62627-1.00011-1.


Metals are frequently used in industry and represent a major source of toxin exposure for workers. For this reason governmental agencies regulate the amount of metal exposure permissible for worker safety. While essential metals serve physiologic roles, metals pose significant health risks upon acute and chronic exposure to high levels. The central nervous system is particularly vulnerable to metals. The brain readily accumulates metals, which under physiologic conditions are incorporated into essential metalloproteins required for neuronal health and energy homeostasis. Severe consequences can arise from circumstances of excess essential metals or exposure to toxic nonessential metal. Herein, we discuss sources of occupational metal exposure, metal homeostasis in the human body, susceptibility of the nervous system to metals, detoxification, detection of metals in biologic samples, and chelation therapeutic strategies. The neurologic pathology and physiology following aluminum, arsenic, lead, manganese, mercury, and trimethyltin exposures are highlighted as classic examples of metal-induced neurotoxicity.

Keywords: aluminum; arsenic; chelation therapy; lead; manganese; mercury; metalloproteins; metals; oxidative stress; reactive oxygen species; trimethyltin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Heavy Metal Poisoning*
  • Humans
  • Metals*
  • Neurotoxicity Syndromes / etiology*
  • Poisoning / complications*
  • Poisoning / etiology


  • Metals