Maternal occupational exposure to chemicals and child cognitive function

Pediatr Res. 2022 Oct;92(4):1153-1160. doi: 10.1038/s41390-022-02089-6. Epub 2022 May 16.


Background: Limited data exist regarding child neurodevelopment in relation to maternal occupational exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs).

Methods: We included 1058 mother-child pairs from the INfancia y Medio Ambiente (INMA) project (2003-2008). Using a job-exposure matrix, exposure probability scores for ten EDC groups were assigned to each mother based on her longest held job during pregnancy. At the child's 5-year visit, the McCarthy Scales of Children's Abilities was administered, yielding the general cognitive index and scales for specific cognitive domains. We analyzed region-specific associations between EDC exposures and each outcome separately using adjusted linear regression and combined region-specific effect estimates using random-effects meta-analyses.

Results: Approximately 24% of women were exposed to at least one EDC group, but exposure to most individual EDC groups was low (<5%). Maternal organic solvent exposure was associated with lower quantitative scores among children (-5.8 points, 95% confidence interval: -11.0, -0.5). Though statistically non-significant, exposures to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, phthalates, alkylphenolic compounds, and miscellaneous chemicals were associated with poorer offspring performance for most or all cognitive domains.

Conclusions: This study found limited evidence for a role of maternal occupational EDC exposures on child cognition. Further research is needed to better characterize exposures among pregnant workers.

Impact: Using data from a prospective birth cohort, we help fill an important research gap regarding the potential consequences of work-related exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) among pregnant women on child neurodevelopment. We expand on existing literature-largely limited to pesticide and organic solvent exposures-by using a job-exposure matrix to estimate exposure to several EDC groups. We found limited evidence of an association between maternal occupational EDC exposure and children's overall cognition. We did observe specific associations between exposure to organic solvents and lower quantitative reasoning scores.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cognition
  • Endocrine Disruptors* / toxicity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects
  • Occupational Exposure* / adverse effects
  • Pesticides*
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Solvents


  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Pesticides
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Solvents