Food and Behaviour Research

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Trends in neurodevelopmental disability burden due to early life chemical exposure in the USA from 2001 to 2016: A population-based disease burden and cost analysis

Gaylord A, Osborne G, Ghassabian A, Malits J, Attina T, Trasande L (2020) Mol Cell Endocrinol 2020 Jan; 

Web URL: Read the abstract on Science Direct here



  • Children are exposed to endocrine disrupting chemicals in utero and in early childhood.
  • Endocrine disrupting chemicals are known to cause neurodevelopmental toxicity.
  • PBDEs were the greatest contributor to IQ loss and intellectual disability.
  • Organophosphate-attributable IQ loss and intellectual disability has increased.
  • The overall cost of neurodevelopmental disease decreased over the study period.

Endocrine disrupting chemicals are known to cause neurodevelopmental toxicity through direct and indirect pathways. In this study we used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, along with known exposure-disease relationships, to quantify the intellectual disability burden attributable to in utero exposure to polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), organophosphates, and methylmercury and early life exposure to lead.

We also estimated the cost of the IQ points lost and cases of intellectual disability. PBDE exposure was the greatest contributor to intellectual disability burden, resulting in a total of 162 million IQ points lost and over 738,000 cases of intellectual disability. This was followed by lead, organophosphates, and methylmercury. From 2001 to 2016, IQ loss from PBDEs, methylmercury, and lead have decreased or remained stagnant. Organophosphate exposure measurements were only available up to 2008 but did show an increase in organophosphate-attributable IQ loss.

Although most of these trends show benefit for children's neurodevelopmental health, they may also point towards the use of potentially harmful substitutions for chemicals that are being phased out.


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