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Reviews on Environmental Health

Editor-in-Chief: Carpenter, David O. / Sly, Peter

Editorial Board: Brugge, Doug / Edwards, John W. / Field, R.William / Garbisu, Carlos / Hales, Simon / Horowitz, Michal / Lawrence, Roderick / Maibach, H.I. / Shaw, Susan / Tao, Shu / Tchounwou, Paul B.

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Volume 34, Issue 1


Exposure to environmental toxicants and young children’s cognitive and social development

Alexandra N. Davis
  • Corresponding author
  • Individual, Family, and Community Education, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, USA, Phone: +816-294-6950
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Gustavo Carlo / Zehra Gulseven / Francisco Palermo / Chung-Ho Lin / Susan C. Nagel / Danh C. Vu / Phuc H. Vo / Thi L. Ho / Jane A. McElroy
Published Online: 2019-03-07 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/reveh-2018-0045



Understanding the role of environmental toxicant exposure on children’s development is an important area of inquiry in order to better understand contextual factors that shape development and ultimately school readiness among young children. There is evidence suggesting negative links between exposure to environmental toxicants and negative physical health outcomes (i.e. asthma, allergies) in children. However, research on children’s exposure to environmental toxicants and other developmental outcomes (cognitive, socioemotional) is limited.


The goal of the current review was to assess the existing literature on the links between environmental toxicants (excluding heavy metals) and children’s cognitive, socioemotional, and behavioral development among young children.


This literature review highlights research on environmental toxicants (i.e. pesticide exposure, bisphenol A, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, tobacco smoke, polychlorinated biphenyls, flame retardants, phthalates and gas pollutions) and children’s development across multiple domains.


The results highlight the potential risk of exposure to multiple environmental toxicants for young children’s cognitive and socioemotional development.


Discussion will focus on the role of environmental toxicants in the cognitive and socioemotional development of young children, while highlighting gaps in the existing literature.

Keywords: cognitive development; early childhood; environmental toxicants; socioemotional development


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About the article

Received: 2018-07-29

Accepted: 2018-12-19

Published Online: 2019-03-07

Published in Print: 2019-03-26

Research funding: Funding support for this project was provided by an award from Mizzou Advantage from MU, and a Margaret Mangel Catalyst Award and a Seeding Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration from the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences.

Conflict of interest: The authors declare they have no actual or potential competing financial interests.

Informed consent: Informed consent is not applicable.

Ethical approval: The conducted research is not related to either human or animal use.

Citation Information: Reviews on Environmental Health, Volume 34, Issue 1, Pages 35–56, ISSN (Online) 2191-0308, ISSN (Print) 0048-7554, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/reveh-2018-0045.

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