Exposure to Widespread Environmental Toxicants and Children's Cognitive Development and Behavioral Problems

Int J Occup Med Environ Health. 2013 Apr;26(2):185-204. doi: 10.2478/s13382-013-0099-x. Epub 2013 May 28.


Nowadays a special attention is focused on prenatal and childhood exposures to a variety of contaminants in the environment, especially toxicants widely present in the environment and their impact on children's health and neurodevelopment. This article aims at evaluating the impact of exposure to several widespread toxicants including: polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), phthalates, bisphenol A, brominated flame retardants and gas cooking on children's cognitive development and behavioral problems by reviewing most recent published literature. Epidemiological studies focusing on exposure to widespread toxicants and children's development for the last eleven years were identified by a search of the PubMed, Medline, Ebsco and Toxnet literature bases. The combination of following key words was used: 1) referring to the exposure: pregnancy, prenatal exposure, postnatal exposure, gas cooking, exposure to phthalates, bisphenol A, brominated flame retardants, PAHs and 2) referring to outcome: neurodevelopment, neurobehavior, psychomotor development, behavioral problems, cognitive development, mental health, school achievements, learning abilities. The results from the presented studies suggest that there are strong and rather consistent indications that the developing nervous system is particularly vulnerable to insult from low levels of exposure to widespread environmental contaminants such as: phthalates, bisphenol A, brominated flame retardants, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, gas cooking. Considering the suggested health effects, more epidemiologic data is urgently needed and, in the meantime, precautionary policies must be implemented.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Benzhydryl Compounds / toxicity
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Child Development / drug effects*
  • Cognition Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity
  • Female
  • Flame Retardants / toxicity
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers / toxicity
  • Hazardous Substances / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / toxicity
  • Phenols / toxicity
  • Phthalic Acids / toxicity
  • Polybrominated Biphenyls / toxicity
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / toxicity
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / chemically induced*


  • Benzhydryl Compounds
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Flame Retardants
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers
  • Hazardous Substances
  • Phenols
  • Phthalic Acids
  • Polybrominated Biphenyls
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • bisphenol A
  • Nitrogen Dioxide