Brain injuries can arise from physical trauma. Concussions and other physical brain injuries come from bruising, bleeding, and inflammation in the brain caused by an accident that jars the brain.
Brain injuries can also come from exposure to toxins. Many synthetic chemicals and natural substances can damage the brain when you inhale, ingest, or absorb them.
Here is some information about brain injuries you can receive from toxic exposure and the compensation you can seek for them.
How Does Toxic Exposure Cause Brain Injuries?
The brain is very sensitive. Chemicals, temperature changes, even air pressure can affect the function and structure of the brain.
Toxins cause brain damage in a few different ways.
Damage to the Brain Cells
Many toxic substances damage cells directly. Some toxins rupture the cell walls. Others interfere with a cell’s ability to synthesize proteins. Some toxins damage the myelin that insulates the brain cells and allows them to transmit electrical nerve signals. All of these toxins cause cells to malfunction or die.
As brain cells malfunction or die, you lose the connections between various brain regions. You can also lose brain cells that perform specific functions, like storing memories.
Some types of toxins that cause this type of brain injury include:
- Some poisons, like cyanide
- Some pharmaceuticals
- Petroleum products like toluene
- Pesticides, like DDT
- Heavy metals, like arsenic and mercury
Contrary to popular belief, brain cells can regenerate. But if the rate of brain damage exceeds the rate of regeneration, the damage will accumulate rather than heal.
Deprives Brain Cells of Oxygen
Some toxins do not directly affect the brain. Instead, they deprive the body of oxygen and, as a result, brain tissue dies.
The average human brain can last about four minutes without oxygen before permanent brain damage develops. Chemicals, like carbon monoxide, that bind to the blood cells can starve the brain of oxygen.
Causes Bleeding in the Brain
Some chemicals cause the brain to bleed. Bleeding in the brain creates two problems.
First, bleeding deprives the brain of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. As a result, some parts of the brain could die from a lack of oxygen.
Secondly, bleeding can cause pressure to build up inside the skull. The pressure inside the skull can squeeze off other blood vessels. It can also cause brain cells to rupture.
Some chemicals that can cause bleeding in the brain include aspirin and other blood thinners.
Neurotransmitters are chemicals that carry or boost the signals sent by neurons. Neurons do not touch. Instead, they use neurotransmitters to carry a signal across the gap.
Some chemical elements bind to the neurotransmitters. Others block the receptors that receive neurotransmitters. This prevents nerve signals from traveling from one neuron to another.
Examples of chemicals that disrupt neurotransmitters include:
- Some illegal drugs like methamphetamine
- Heavy metals like lead and manganese
- Some pesticides like organophosphates and carbamates
If exposure to these toxins ends, you may regain some of the brain function you lost.
Cause Cancerous Mutations
Some chemicals cause neurons to mutate. Cancer happens when the mutations cause uncontrolled cell reproduction.
Some chemicals that can cause brain cancer include:
- Solvents like tetrachloroethylene (also called perchloroethylene or PERC)
- Plastics like polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)
Unfortunately, some cancer treatments also cause brain damage. For example, chemotherapy drugs like methotrexate inhibit the brain from replacing lost brain cells.
Inflammation in the Brain Tissue
Many chemicals can cause inflammation. In the brain, inflammation and swelling can cut off the blood supply to the brain.
Some of the most common toxins that cause the brain to swell include mold spores and some pharmaceuticals.
Affect Brain Development and Growth
Some chemicals inhibit brain development and growth in children. These exposures could result from exposure before or after birth.
Some chemicals that inhibit brain development and growth include:
- Fire suppressants like polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE)
- Pesticides like pyrethroids
Unfortunately, the brain development lost to toxic exposures is usually permanent. As a result, a child who is exposed to these toxins could face lifelong problems.
What are the Symptoms of Brain Injuries from Toxic Exposure?
The symptoms of brain injuries will depend on the location and severity of the damaged cells. The symptoms generally fall into three categories:
Physical symptoms usually come from misfires in the brain due to brain damage. Physical symptoms can include:
- Loss of coordination
- Loss of dexterity
- Loss of balance
- Slurred speech
- Muscle weakness
As a result of these symptoms, some researchers have linked toxic exposures to an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease.
Mental symptoms that can arise from toxic exposure can include:
- Memory loss
- Sleep disorders
- Difficulty concentrating
Doctors may characterize these symptoms as dementia brought on by the toxins.
Emotional symptoms that may arise due to brain injuries from toxic exposure include:
- Emotional outbursts
You might not connect a change in personality to brain damage. But the injuries caused by toxic exposures can result in emotional changes.
What Compensation Can I Recover for Brain Injuries from Toxic Exposure?
If you pursue a product liability claim against the manufacturer of the toxin, you only need to prove that the product was defective to recover compensation. You do not need to prove that the manufacturer knew or should have known of the dangers.
Defective products can have three types of defects. Design defects occur when the product’s danger makes it impossible to use safely. For example, a pesticide marketed as an aerosol might have a design defect if it causes cancer when users inhale it.
Manufacturing defects occur when the process for making the product introduces a hazard. Solvents used to manufacture plastics, like BPA, have been linked to brain injuries. If a factory failed to properly cleanse its products of the dangerous solvent, affected parties might have grounds to claim a manufacturing defect.
Warning defects happen when the manufacturer fails to instruct you how to use the product safely. A lack of warning labels or vague instructions might create a warning defect.
If you can prove the product was defective, you can seek economic and non-economic damages. For brain injuries, both of these categories of damages could be substantial. You could face medical bills, lost income, and a diminishment in your quality of life for your remaining lifetime.
Contact a San Diego Personal Injury Lawyer for Help
To discuss the compensation you can seek for your brain injuries from toxic exposure, contact Mission Personal Injury Lawyers at (619) 777-5555 for a free consultation. Our personal injury attorneys in San Diego are standing by.