There are many occupational risks for individuals who work on railroads, and one of the most common of these is toxic encephalopathy. Also known as chronic solvent encephalopathy, toxic encephalopathy is a degenerative neurological condition that can lead to memory loss, impaired or loss of vision, and altered mental status, among other symptoms. For railroad workers who have been diagnosed with toxic encephalopathy, it is highly advised that they seek the services of an attorney familiar with chemical exposure claims to discuss the possibilities of recovering damages.

What are the Symptoms of Toxic Encephalopathy?

The label “encephalopathy” refers to a variety of brain disorders that can be caused by bacteria, tumors, kidney failure and many other conditions. Toxic encephalopathy occurs when the brain is exposed to dangerous toxins. The toxins could be hazardous materials like mercury or lead, or other products, such as household cleaners, that are not typically thought of as hazardous. In most cases, the damage caused is irreversible. Some the most common symptoms of toxic encephalopathy include:

  • Altered mental status
  • Increased irrationality
  • Memory loss
  • Seizures
  • Fatigue
  • Involuntary movements
  • Depression

Not all individuals experience all of these (the most common) symptoms. Acute exposure  symptoms include dizziness, headaches, nausea and lightheadedness. These symptoms can be a red flag, and if they persist it is highly recommended that the individual seek the opinion of a physician.

What Causes Toxic Encephalopathy?

The leading cause of toxic encephalopathy to railway workers is exposure to chemical solvents on the jobsite. When an individual comes in contact with chemical solvents or their fumes on a regular basis, extremely small traces of these chemicals can be inhaled and taken into the bloodstream, which gives them a direct line to the brain. Commonly referred to as “brain fog,” toxic encephalopathy is often mistaken to be a sign of aging, as it has similar symptoms.

Many products including cleaning chemicals, pesticides, building materials, air fresheners and more contain trace amounts of lead, which can lead to this degenerative neurological disease. These chemicals diffuse quickly into the bloodstream if inhaled by an individual, and this allows the chemicals to easily pass through the brain-blood barrier and reach the individual’s brain, where they can do irreparable damage. Workers who incur this condition and their families have a long road ahead of them, and are highly encouraged to speak with legal representation, as they may be able to collect compensation through various lawsuits.

How Can You Treat Encephalopathy?

In most cases of toxic encephalopathy, there is no cure. There are treatments for the persisting symptoms an individual will have to deal with on a daily basis, but the disease itself is permanent and usually causes permanent damage to the brain. For the best possible outcome, it is imperative that an individual with toxic encephalopathy remove him or herself from the work site where exposure to chemicals has affected them as soon as possible. Anyone who experiences symptoms of this degenerative disease should seek medical attention as soon as possible, because prolonged exposure or untreated toxic encephalopathy can be life threatening.