Review of the environmental prenatal exposome and its relationship to maternal and fetal health

Reprod Toxicol. 2020 Dec;98:1-12. doi: 10.1016/j.reprotox.2020.02.004. Epub 2020 Feb 23.


Environmental chemicals comprise a major portion of the human exposome, with some shown to impact the health of susceptible populations, including pregnant women and developing fetuses. The placenta and cord blood serve as important biological windows into the maternal and fetal environments. In this article we review how environmental chemicals (defined here to include man-made chemicals [e.g., flame retardants, pesticides/herbicides, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances], toxins, metals, and other xenobiotic compounds) contribute to the prenatal exposome and highlight future directions to advance this research field. Our findings from a survey of recent literature indicate the need to better understand the breadth of environmental chemicals that reach the placenta and cord blood, as well as the linkages between prenatal exposures, mechanisms of toxicity, and subsequent health outcomes. Research efforts tailored towards addressing these needs will provide a more comprehensive understanding of how environmental chemicals impact maternal and fetal health.

Keywords: Developmental toxicity; Environment; Exposome; Fetus; Pregnancy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Environmental Pollutants / analysis
  • Exposome*
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / chemistry
  • Fetal Development*
  • Humans
  • Maternal Exposure*
  • Maternal Health*
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange*
  • Placenta / chemistry
  • Pregnancy


  • Environmental Pollutants