Prenatal Exposures


The environment can have an important influence on development, and this also includes the prenatal period. The growth that happens during the nine months of prenatal development is nothing short of astonishing, but this period is also a time of potential vulnerability. Fortunately, the effects of many of these hazards can be greatly lessened or even avoided entirely.

A new Dartmouth-led study, published in the journal Environment International, reveals how prenatal exposure to mixtures of commonly found metals can adversely affect fetal growth.

Fetal growth is linked to future health—infants who are born small for their gestational age experience greater rates of neonatal mortality and are at a higher risk of developing neurocognitive impairment in childhood and cardiometabolic disease later in life.

A growing number of studies have established that toxic metals, coming from sources such as contaminated food and drinking water and polluted air and dust, are prevalent in the environment, and many of these metals can cross the placenta or alter placental function, contributing to reduced fetal growth.

Prenatal exposure to industrial chemicals can come from air, food, water, plastics, and other industrial and consumer products.