Association of arsenic, cadmium and manganese exposure with neurodevelopment and behavioural disorders in children: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Sci Total Environ. 2013 Jun 1;454-455:562-77. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.03.047. Epub 2013 Apr 9.


The aim of this study was to analyse the scientific evidence published to date on the potential effects on neurodevelopment and behavioural disorders in children exposed to arsenic, cadmium and manganese and to quantify the magnitude of the effect on neurodevelopment by pooling the results of the different studies. We conducted a systematic review of original articles from January 2000 until March 2012, that evaluate the effects on neurodevelopment and behavioural disorders due to pre or post natal exposure to arsenic, cadmium and manganese in children up to 16 years of age. We also conducted a meta-analysis assessing the effects of exposure to arsenic and manganese on neurodevelopment. Forty-one articles that evaluated the effects of metallic elements on neurodevelopment and behavioural disorders met the inclusion criteria: 18 examined arsenic, 6 cadmium and 17 manganese. Most studies evaluating exposure to arsenic (13 of 18) and manganese (14 of 17) reported a significant negative effect on neurodevelopment and behavioural disorders. Only two studies that evaluated exposure to cadmium found an association with neurodevelopmental or behavioural disorders. The results of our meta-analysis suggest that a 50% increase of arsenic levels in urine would be associated with a 0.4 decrease in the intelligence quotient (IQ) of children aged 5-15 years. Moreover a 50% increase of manganese levels in hair would be associated with a decrease of 0.7 points in the IQ of children aged 6-13 years. There is evidence that relates arsenic and manganese exposure with neurodevelopmental problems in children, but there is little information on cadmium exposure. Few studies have evaluated behavioural disorders due to exposure to these compounds, and manganese is the only one for which there is more evidence of the existence of association with attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Arsenic / toxicity*
  • Cadmium / toxicity*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / complications*
  • Child Behavior Disorders / epidemiology
  • Child Development / drug effects*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Manganese / toxicity*
  • Nervous System Diseases / complications*
  • Nervous System Diseases / epidemiology


  • Cadmium
  • Manganese
  • Arsenic