Cumulative Chemical Exposures During Pregnancy and Early Development

Curr Environ Health Rep. 2015 Dec;2(4):367-78. doi: 10.1007/s40572-015-0064-x.


Industrial and consumer product chemicals are widely used, leading to ubiquitous human exposure to the most common classes. Because these chemicals may affect developmental milestones, exposures in pregnant women and developing fetuses are of particular interest. In this review, we discuss the prevalence of chemical exposures in pregnant women, the chemical class-specific relationships between maternal and fetal exposures, and the major sources of exposures for six chemical classes of concern: phthalates, phenols, perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), flame retardants, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and organochlorine pesticides (OCs). Additionally, we describe the current efforts to characterize cumulative exposures to synthetic chemicals during pregnancy. We conclude by highlighting gaps in the literature and discussing possible applications of the findings to reduce the prevalence of cumulative exposures during pregnancy.

Keywords: Cumulative exposure; Flame retardants; Organochlorine pesticides; Perfluorinated compounds; Phenols; Phthalates; Polychlorinated biphenyls; Pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child Development / drug effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / prevention & control
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Environmental Pollutants / analysis*
  • Environmental Pollutants / classification
  • Female
  • Flame Retardants / analysis
  • Fluorocarbons / analysis
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Organophosphates / analysis
  • Phenols / analysis
  • Phthalic Acids / analysis
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / analysis
  • Pregnancy*


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Flame Retardants
  • Fluorocarbons
  • Organophosphates
  • Phenols
  • Phthalic Acids
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls