Purpose of review: Summarize recent studies exploring the relationship between paternal and maternal environmental exposures to chemicals before, at the time of and after conception to adverse developmental outcomes including preterm birth, death, structural and functional abnormalities and growth restriction.
Recent findings: Recent studies have demonstrated that human pregnancy and development are vulnerable to environmental exposures of the father and mother to chemical, biological and physical agents. Exposures associated with adverse developmental outcomes include air and water pollution, chemicals in foods, occupational exposures, agricultural chemicals, metals, persistent and volatile organics. Developmental endpoints which are linked with these exposures include growth restriction, functional abnormalities, structural abnormalities, preterm delivery and death. Despite this general understanding we still have incomplete knowledge concerning most exposures and the biological interactions responsible for impaired development and preterm delivery.
Summary: Whereas single genes and individual chemical exposures are responsible for some instances of adverse pregnancy outcome or developmental disease, gene-environment interactions are responsible for the majority. These gene-environment interactions may occur in the father, mother, placenta or fetus, suggesting that critical attention be given to maternal and paternal exposures and gene expression as they relate to the mode of action of the putative developmental toxicant both prior to and during pregnancy.