The impact of toxins on the developing brain is usually subtle for an individual child, but the damage can be substantial at the population level. Numerous challenges must be addressed to definitively test the impact of toxins on brain development in children: We must quantify exposure using a biologic marker or pollutant; account for an ever-expanding set of potential confounders; identify critical windows of vulnerability; and repeatedly examine the association of biologic markers of toxins with intellectual abilities, behaviors, and brain function in distinct cohorts. Despite these challenges, numerous toxins have been implicated in the development of intellectual deficits and mental disorders in children. Yet, too little has been done to protect children from these ubiquitous but insidious toxins. The objective of this review is to provide an overview on the population impact of toxins on the developing brain and describe implications for public health.

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    Subtle shifts in the intellectual abilities of individual children from widespread exposures to toxins can have a big impact on the number of children in a population who are intellectually challenged or gifted.

    Using a nationally representative study of US children, this video illustrates how subtle shifts in ADHD symptoms from childhood lead exposure and prenatal tobacco exposure result in a large increase in the percent of US children who have ADHD.

  • Article Type: Review Article
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