Developmental Exposure to Environmental Chemicals and Metabolic Changes in Children

Curr Probl Pediatr Adolesc Health Care. 2016 Aug;46(8):255-85. doi: 10.1016/j.cppeds.2016.06.001. Epub 2016 Jul 9.


The incidence of childhood obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other forms of metabolic disease have been rising over the past several decades. Although diet and physical activity play important roles in these trends, other environmental factors also may contribute to this significant public health issue. In this article, we discuss the possibility that widespread exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) may contribute to the development of metabolic diseases in children. We summarize the epidemiological evidence on exposure to environmental chemicals during early development and metabolic outcomes in infants and children. Prenatal exposure to EDCs, particularly the persistent organic pollutant DDT and its metabolite DDE, may influence growth patterns during infancy and childhood. The altered growth patterns associated with EDCs vary according to exposure level, sex, exposure timing, pubertal status, and age at which growth is measured. Early exposure to air pollutants also is linked to impaired metabolism in infants and children. As a result of these and other studies, professional health provider societies have called for a reduction in environmental chemical exposures. We summarize the resources available to health care providers to counsel patients on how to reduce chemical exposures. We conclude with a discussion of environmental policies that address chemical exposures and ultimately aim to improve public health.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Development / drug effects*
  • Endocrine Disruptors / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / prevention & control
  • Environmental Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / drug effects
  • Female
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects


  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Environmental Pollutants