A developmental perspective on early-life exposure to neurotoxicants

David C. Bellinger, Julia A. Matthews-Bellinger, Katarzyna Kordas

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Background: Studies of early-life neurotoxicant exposure have not been designed, analyzed, or interpreted in the context of a fully developmental perspective. Objectives: The goal of this paper is to describe the key principles of a developmental perspective and to use examples from the literature to illustrate the relevance of these principles to early-life neurotoxicant exposures. Methods: Four principles are discussed: 1) the effects of early-life neurotoxicant exposure depend on a child's developmental context; 2) deficits caused by early-life exposure initiate developmental cascades that can lead to pathologies that differ from those observed initially; 3) early-life neurotoxicant exposure has intra-familial and intergenerational impacts; 4) the impacts of early-life neurotoxicant exposure influence a child's ability to respond to future insults. The first principle is supported by considerable evidence, but the other three have received much less attention. Discussion: Incorporating a developmental perspective in studies of early-life neurotoxicant exposures requires prospective collection of data on a larger array of covariates than usually considered, using analytical approaches that acknowledge the transactional processes between a child and the environment and the phenomenon of developmental cascades. Conclusion: Consideration of early-life neurotoxicant exposure within a developmental perspective reveals that many issues remain to be explicated if we are to achieve a deep understanding of the societal health burden associated with early-life neurotoxicant exposures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-112
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironment international
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Environmental Science


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