Thursday, January 30, 2014

Toxic Chemicals and Mental Illness

Mental illness is often kept quiet, in this country. We may all know someone who suffers from a mental illness but none of us may want to talk of about it. Having lost people in my life to suicide, I try to make a point to support mental health causes when and wherever I can. That's why I became interested in the link between toxic chemicals and mood disorders.

It turns out that heavy, pesticides, solvents, PCBs, vinyl chloride, and other chemicals and cause or trigger mood disorder symptoms*. How does this happen?

According to Dr. Janelle Sinclair, 4 different mechanisms cause depression.
  1. Toxins, particularly solvents, heavy metals, and pesticides disrupt neurons' (brain cells') normal abilities to communicate with each other through electrical signals.
  2. Both mercury and lead are so toxic to the brain that they damage the actual structure of the brain.
  3. Toxins affect the levels of neurotransmitters available. The electrical signals lead to the creation of neurotransmitters, like serotonin, that travel from neuron to neuron. Too much or too little of these neurotransmitters can affect our mood. An example, provided by Dr. Sinclair is manganese. Manganese reduces serotonin levels. If your serotonin levels are too low, you feel depressed.
  4. Mercury, lead, cadmium, and arsenic create free radical damage in the body. In the brain, this can lead to inflammation, and neuronal death.
Now what about other disorders? Well, from the citation below, you will find a treasure trove a information, including pesticides. I will post some charts from the paper below.

*Collaborative on Health and the Environment. (2008, November). Mental Health and Environmental Exposures from Learning and Developmental Disabilities Initiative. Retrieved January 30, 2014, from

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