Reviewed by Kathy Empen on June 19, 2012

Sources

Philip Landrigan, MD, Professor and Chair, Preventive Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine; Director, Children’s Environmental Health Center.

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Video Transcript

: Is damage caused by a toxic exposure ever reversible?

Philip Landrigan, MD Dir, Children's Environmental Health Ctr.: The kind of injury really depends upon which organ in a child's body is affected. So if you have a toxic chemical like lead, like methyl-mercury that damages the child's brain, the brain doesn't have much ability to repair itself. If one of those chemicals gets in to a child's brain in early life and causes injury, the basic medical teaching these days is that damage is permanent. It's not treatable, and therefore the only sensible way to deal with it is to prevent the exposure in the first place.

Philip Landrigan, MD (cont.): On the other hand, other chemicals like certain air pollutants that cause injury to the lungs—chemicals that cause injury to other organs. If you stop the exposure and separate the child from the toxic chemical, the injury can repair itself.