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Inequities in childrens' exposure to neurotoxicants

Payne-Sturges' scoping review of the literature and recommendations to narrow health disparities

In a new article published in Environmental Health Perspectives, Faculty Associate Devon Payne-Sturges  and colleagues review over 200 published studies investigating children's cognitive and behavioral outcomes related to toxic chemicals and air pollutants.

Given that exposure to such neurotoxicants is disproportionately greater in lower income communities and communities of color, Payne-Sturges highlights the importance of investigating how inequitable exposure exacerbates health disparities. However, only one third of the studies included in the review examined differences across sociodemographic groups.

Across these studies, exposure to lead and air pollution was disproportionately experienced by lower-income children and Black youth, who were additionally disproportionately exposed to organophosphate insecticides. Moreover, the effect of exposure to air pollution in early childhood was exacerbated in youth living in lower-income neighborhoods, who were at a greater likelihood of receiving a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.

The authors underscore the need for epidemiologists to continue investigating the environmental features that enhance the vulnerability of historically marginalized racial-ethnic and socioeconomic groups to negative childhood effects by neurotoxicant exposure. Policymakers should focus on eliminating disparities by investing in the environmental health of these communities.



Payne-Sturges, D. C., Taiwo, T. K., Ellickson, K., Mullen, H., Tchangalova, N., Anderko, L., Chen, A., & Swanson, M. (2023). Disparities in toxic chemical exposures and associated neurodevelopmental outcomes: a scoping review and systematic evidence map of the epidemiological literature. Environmental Health Perspectives, 131(9), 096001.