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J Commun Disord. 2015 Sep-Oct;57:41-65. doi: 10.1016/j.jcomdis.2015.07.002. Epub 2015 Jul 23.

Prenatal chemical exposures and child language development.

Author information

1
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Neuroscience Program, 405 North Mathews Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801, USA. Electronic address: dzwilew2@illinois.edu.
2
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Department of Comparative Biosciences, 2001 South Lincoln Avenue, Urbana, IL 61802, USA. Electronic address: schantz@illinois.edu.

Abstract

The goal of this review is to summarize the evidence that prenatal and/or early postnatal exposure to certain chemicals, both manmade (insulating materials, flame retardants, pesticides) and naturally occurring (e.g., lead, mercury), may be associated with delays or impairments in language development. We focus primarily on a subset of more extensively studied chemicals-polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), lead, and methyl mercury-for which a reasonable body of literature on neurodevelopmental outcomes is available. We also briefly summarize the smaller body of evidence for other chemicals including polybrominated diphenyl ether flame retardants (PBDEs) and organophosphate pesticides. Very few studies have used specific assessments of language development and function. Therefore, we included discussion of aspects of cognitive development such as overall intellectual functioning and verbal abilities that rely on language, as well as aspects of cognition such as verbal and auditory working memory that are critical underpinnings of language development. A high percentage of prospective birth cohort studies of PCBs, lead, and mercury have reported exposure-related reductions in overall IQ and/or verbal IQ that persist into middle or late childhood. Given these findings, it is important that clinicians and researchers in communication sciences and disorders are aware of the potential for environmental chemicals to impact language development.

LEARNING OUTCOMES:

The goal of this review is to summarize the evidence that prenatal and/or early postnatal exposure to certain chemicals may be associated with delays or impairments in language development. Readers will gain an understanding of the literature suggesting that early exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), lead, and mercury may be associated with decrements in cognitive domains that depend on language or are critical for language development. We also briefly summarize the smaller body of evidence regarding polybrominated diphenyl ether flame retardants (PBDEs) and organophosphate pesticides. Very few studies of exposure to these chemicals have used specific assessments of language development; thus, further investigation is needed before changes in clinical practice can be suggested.

KEYWORDS:

Language development; Lead; Mercury; Polychlorinated biphenyls; Prenatal exposure

PMID:
26255253
PMCID:
PMC4548902
DOI:
10.1016/j.jcomdis.2015.07.002
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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