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Environmental and Chemical Toxins and Psychiatric Illness

James S. Brown, Jr., M.D.

  • ISBN 978-0-88048-954-6
  • Item #8954

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During the past 60 years, the number of chemical disasters worldwide from military, occupational, and environmental sources has risen at an alarming rate. The profound controversy surrounding many chemicals makes objective analysis nearly impossible. Yet now more than ever—with the daily exposure to a wide range of chemicals and the increased threat of chemical terrorism—it is critical that we understand the role of chemicals in causing psychiatric illness.

Unlike related books, this remarkable reference is intended specifically for psychiatric applications and is thus the definitive sourcebook for the many professionals called on to respond to these events.

This work stands alone as the first on this topic to be written by a psychiatrist and the first to bring together the military, occupational, and environmental exposures causing psychiatric illness, including multiple chemical sensitivities, mass hysteria, radiation exposures, community stress reactions, and Gulf War and other syndromes.

Unique highlights include

  • A summary of the reported psychiatric symptoms attributed to each chemical class (chemical weapons, pesticides, fumigants, metals, solvents, gases, PCBs, Agent Orange, and other miscellaneous chemicals) in tables for easy reference. We use personal care products, take prescription drugs, pump gasoline, drink alcohol, and spray insecticides as part of our everyday lives. Yet rarely do we realize that significant exposures to the chemicals described in this book—many of which we are exposed to in daily activities—can damage the central nervous system, causing psychiatric illness.
  • A comprehensive bibliography, in every chapter, of all the important material in English-language medical journals and books that has appeared on this subject since the late 19th century. These bibliographies cover everything from the first published reports of the dangers of carbon disulfide in the French rubber industry—dangers that American medicine ignored for years—through more recent large-scale chemical exposures that have serious long-term consequences. (e.g., Love Canal).
  • The latest information about terrorist and military uses of chemical weapons—of critical relevance in psychiatry today—from World War I combatants exposed to chlorine, phosgene, mustard gas, arsenic, and cyanide to the first organophosphate, or nerve, gases (such as tabun and sarin) developed by the Germans before and during World War II (and used by Iraq in the Gulf War and by a religious cult in the terrorist subway attacks in Tokyo and Matsumoto, Japan).

Quite simply, this book is a must have for psychiatric and medical professionals everywhere, with extended appeal among laypersons such as environmental/consumer advocates, attorneys, insurance professionals, industrial hygienists, disaster planners, and medical librarians.


  • Introduction
  • Part I: Military, Terrorist, and Disaster Incidents

  • Chapter 1. Military and terrorist incidents
  • Chapter 2. Community and individual stress reactions
  • Chapter 3. Ionizing radiation
  • Part II: Pesticides

  • Chapter 4. Insecticides
  • Chapter 5. Fumigants
  • Part III: Metals

  • Chapter 6. Aluminum
  • Chapter 7. Arsenic
  • Chapter 8. Lead
  • Chapter 9. Manganese
  • Chapter 10. Mercury
  • Chapter 11. Thallium
  • Chapter 12. Tin
  • Part IV: Solvents

  • Chapter 13. Solvents
  • Part V: Toxic Gases

  • Chapter 14. Carbon monoxide
  • Chapter 15. Hydrogen sulfide
  • Part VI: Other Chemicals and Syndromes

  • Chapter 16. Polybrominated biphenyls and polychlorinated biphenyls
  • Chapter 17. Miscellaneous elements, chemicals, and syndromes
  • Chapter 18. Sensitivity syndromes
  • Index

About the Authors

James S. Brown Jr., M.D., is Director of the Mental Health Clinic at McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, Virginia.

This is an extremely useful book to have in clinical work. It is well written and to the point and covers an area often ignored in training. I do not know of any other book that encompasses the materials as neatly as his. It is a handy reference that stays on my office shelf.—Philip Khoury, M.D., Doody's Health Science Book Review Journal,, 7/1/2002

Environmental and Chemical Toxins and Psychiatric Illness by James S. Brown Jr. M.D., is an excellent compendium of useful facts about toxins and their implications for psychiatric treatment. As we face the threat of terrorist attacks, this seminal book summarizes information that would be critical for psychiatrists who respond to a chemical or radiological attack. Dr. Brown presents a compelling case for psychiatrists to familiarize themselves with environmental and chemical toxins. His volume is well written and engaging, including historical background, and, sadly, all too timely.—Ann E. Norwood, M.D., COL, MC, USA, Associate Professor and Associate Chair of Psychiatry, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland

This book presents a timely, well-written, and readable overview of demonstrated and purported effects of chemical exposures on mental health. It is very well researched, with extensive endnotes on all subjects covered. Dr. Brown's work will make a valuable addition to any professional's library. And it provides an excellent entry point into the literature on most recognized chemical sources of psychiatric illness. .—R. Leonard Vance, Ph.D., PE, CIH, Associate Professor, Department of Preventive Medicine & Community Health, Medical College of Virginia/VCU, Richmond, Virginia

Environmental and Chemical Toxins and Psychiatric Illness is a wonderful reference compendium describing largely unappreciated psychiatric syndromes associated with commonly and uncommonly encountered toxic substances. It is a particularly timely work that fills a previously neglected niche in the psychiatric literature.—Charles M. Davis, M.D., Hospital Medical Director, Central State Hospital, Petersburg, Virginia

This book fills a needed gap. . . .James Brown has assembled an impressive amount of information on known environmental and chemical toxins and presents it in a user-friendly format. For those wanting information on the physical and psychiatric side effects of heavy metals such as mercury or lead, pesticides, solvents, and other agents, this book has it all.—Donald W. Black, M.D., American Journal of Psychiatry,, 7/1/2002

James S. Brown Jr. M.D., has completed a timely form of community service for psychiatric caregivers in his thorough overview of potential psychiatric symptoms in Environmental and Chemical Toxins in Psychiatric Illness.—Martin K. Williams, M.D., Psychiatric Services, 7/1/2002

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