The Connection Between Environmental Factors and Childhood Developmental Disorders

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Understanding The Link Between Environmental Factors and Childhood Developmental Disorders and Health

Recent research has highlighted the importance of environmental factors in childhood development and the potential risk factors associated with mental development and overall health. New research emphasizes the unique impacts of environmental stress, such as exposure to environmental pollutants, during critical stages of early childhood growth and development. It’s important for parents and healthcare professionals alike to understand the importance of environmental factors in childhood development.

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Environmental Factors

Environmental factors associated with risks to childhood health, mental wellbeing and development include air pollutants such as smog and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), pollutants such as lead, pesticides, and exposure to radiation.

Developmental Disorders

Some of the developmental disorders that can be linked to environmental factors include developmental delay, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), language and speech delays, cognitive deficits, learning disabilities, and behavioral problems.

How Environmental Factors Impact Development

Research has shown that environmental air pollution and toxins can have long-term impacts on the developing brain, especially the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. This can lead to toxic stress responses, which can disturb hormonal, metabolic, cardiorespiratory, and immune system functioning.

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Further evidence suggests that a child’s environment during gestation and early infancy can ‘program’ a child’s genome and alter their epigenetic landscape. It’s because of this that children aged 0-2 are among the most vulnerable group to environmental contaminants.

What Parents Can Do

Parents can take steps to protect their children from environmental toxins, such as by avoiding the use of pesticides or toxic cleaning products, and properly ventilating the home. Additionally, to reduce the effects of air pollutants, parents should avoid playing or spending time outdoors in highly polluted areas.

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If you are concerned about the potential effects of environmental contaminants, consider talking to your child’s primary care provider. Your pediatrician can help assess your child’s risk factors and recommend preventative approaches, including early screening and intervention services.


Environmental factors can play a key role in child development and overall health. Understanding the impacts of environmental hazards can help parents protect their children. Taking preventive steps and utilizing early interventions can help ensure that children can grow and develop in a healthy environment.

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