Environmental Research ( IF 5.715 ) Pub Date : 2020-09-15 , DOI: 10.1016/j.envres.2020.110199 José G. Dórea
Environmental (and occupational) exposure to neurotoxic substances is a worldwide problem that can affect children’s neurodevelopment (ND). In Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries there are over 300 million children living under the threat of neurodevelopmental delays due to toxic environmental exposure. Large industrial centers, intense mining and agricultural activities, along with changing complex ecosystems constitute a mosaic that drives contamination of air, water and the food chain. Neurotoxic contaminants such as pesticides (organochlorines, organophosphates, carbamates, pyrethroids, neonicotinoids, and manganese fungicides), chemicals of industrial use (phthalates), and metals (Hg, Pb, Al, As, F, Cd, Mo, Mn) are at the center of environmental exposure studies. Exposure to neurotoxic substances singly or in combination with other compounds or socioeconomic stressors (maternal education, socio-economic and nutritional status) intertwined with occupational and para-occupational exposure can affect ND (motor, cognition, behavior) of children. Significant negative effects of pesticides and neurotoxic elements on ND were found in all studied countries, affecting especially the less-privileged children from laboring families. Studies showed that exposures to the neurotoxicants in human milk are secondary to their more lasting effects during prenatal exposure. This review integrates exposure (prenatal and breastfeeding), metabolism, and ND effects of neurotoxicants. It highlights the overwhelming evidence showing that current levels of exposures are hazardous and detrimental to children’s ND in LAC countries. The evidence indicates that a reduction in neurotoxicant exposure is essential to protect children’s ND. Therefore, it is urgent to adopt policies and actions that prevent and remediate region-specific children’s ND issues.