Glycol Ethers and Neurodevelopment: Investigating the Impact of Prenatal Exposures

As I understand it, there are three sorts of prenatal causes of neurodevelopmental delays or impairments in infants/children: 1) genetic, though I don't fully grasp what triggers these genetic alterations in the first place; 2) oxygen deprivation, such as caused by an umbilical cord during birth; and 3) chemical exposures.

My latest article for EHP deals with the third -- although the science remains rather preliminary, early evidence suggests that exposure to chemicals within a broad, very common class known as glycol ethers is associated with impacts on neurodevelopment. It's fascinating, and frightening, that a mother's exposure to certain chemicals common in consumer products may have significant, potentially lifelong implications for her child's cognitive abilities.

While on the individual level such delays or impairments may appear subtle and attributable to random variation within a population -- as opposed to being tied to a specific disease, injury, chemical exposure, etc -- they can still have major consequences for a constellation of childhood skills including cognitive development and ability, speech and language ability, learning ability, fine and gross motor skills, social skills, etc.

And, on the population level, since exposures to some glycol ethers are already known to be widespread -- particularly in the United States and Europe, with detection rates at or near 100 percent -- if this association between a mother's exposure and her child's neurodevelopment holds up under further scrutiny, these effects are only magnified.