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Ind Health. 2009 Oct;47(5):459-68.

Neurodevelopmental toxicity risks due to occupational exposure to industrial chemicals during pregnancy.

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  • 1Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Landmark Building 3E-110, 401 Park Drive, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


Exposure to neurotoxic chemicals is of particular concern when it occurs during early development. The immature brain is highly vulnerable prenatally and is therefore at risk due to occupational exposures incurred by pregnant women. A systematic search of the literature has been performed with emphasis on epidemiological studies on female workers and the neurodevelopment of their children. The majority of recent occupational studies focused on organic solvents and pesticides, which were associated with neurobehavioral impairments in the progeny. Additional evidence on environmental exposures demonstrates the vulnerability of the developing brain to substances like lead and methylmercury. Despite the evident hazards involved, the number of occupational cohort studies carried out in this field is very low. However, the lack of evidence for assumed neurotoxicants should not divert the attention by occupational health researchers and practitioners from the need to protect pregnant workers. Due to the vulnerability of the brain during early development, a precautionary approach to neurodevelopmental toxicity needs to be applied in occupational health.

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