Chemicals in the environment and developmental toxicity to children: a public health and policy perspective

Environ Health Perspect. 2000 Jun;108 Suppl 3(Suppl 3):443-8. doi: 10.1289/ehp.00108s3443.


There are numerous pesticides and toxic chemicals in the environment that have yet to be evaluated for potential to cause developmental neurotoxicity. Recent legislation and testing initiatives provide an impetus to generating more information about potential hazards to children. In the United States, the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) required the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) to make a finding that a pesticide food use is safe for children. In addition, the law requires U.S. EPA to incorporate an additional 10-fold factor in risk assessments for pesticide residue tolerances to take into account the special sensitivities of infants and children as well as incomplete data with respect to toxicity and exposures. The potential of chemicals in food and drinking water to cause endocrine disruption will also be examined via the Endocrine Disruptor Screening and Testing Program required by the FQPA and the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act. In addition, a new voluntary chemical information program will provide screening-level information for the some 2,800 high-volume chemicals in commerce in the United States. These initiatives will need to be accompanied by research focused on developmental toxicity for children, including developmental disabilities. Developmental disabilities exact a large toll on children's health in the United States. Three major developmental disabilities--autism, cerebral palsy, and severe mental retardation--each affect substantial numbers of children. We know very little about the etiology of these conditions. A number of priority areas for research are suggested, including a large environmental prospective study of developmental neurotoxicity.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Welfare
  • Child, Preschool
  • Data Collection
  • Developmental Disabilities / chemically induced*
  • Environmental Health*
  • Environmental Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Policy Making
  • Public Policy*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Water Supply
  • Xenobiotics / adverse effects*


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Xenobiotics