Effects of prenatal exposure to NO2 on children's neurodevelopment: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2020 Jul;27(20):24786-24798. doi: 10.1007/s11356-020-08832-y. Epub 2020 Apr 30.


The neurotoxicity of NO2 exposure is well-known and potentially causes impaired of neural functions. This review aimed to estimate associations between prenatal NO2 exposure and neurodevelopment for children. Articles published until May 2019 reported prenatal NO2 exposure and children's cognition, psychomotor, language, attention, IQ, and behavior function were searched according to all related terms. The main databases we retrieved included PubMed, Web of Science, Embase, and Cochrane Library. Coefficient was extracted, conversed, and synthesized by random effects meta-analysis. Meanwhile, qualitatively describe would be used for some studies which cannot be synthesized quantitatively for lack of quantity or methods inconsistency. Finally, a total of 3848 citations were searched, and only 10 studies were included. We estimated that per 10 μg/m3 increase of NO2 during pregnancy was associated with a - 0.76 point decrease in global psychomotor (95% CI, - 1.34, - 0.18) and a - 0.62 point decrease in fine psychomotor for children (95% CI, - 1.09, - 0.16). But no significant association found in general cognitive and language. In addition, through the literature review, it seemed that prenatal exposure to NO2 might cause adverse impacts on children's attention, IQ, and different behaviors, but this requires confirmation from further researches. Our study indicated that prenatal exposure to NO2 seems to be associated with impaired neural development for children, especially for fine psychomotor. However, further studies are needed for determining the effects of prenatal air pollution exposure on attention, IQ, and behavior.

Keywords: Children; Cognition; Neurodevelopment; Nitrogen dioxide; Prenatal exposure; Psychomotor.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Air Pollution / analysis*
  • Child
  • Cognition
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Exposure
  • Nitrogen Dioxide* / toxicity
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Nitrogen Dioxide