Prenatal air pollution exposure and neurodevelopment: A review and blueprint for a harmonized approach within ECHO

Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Background: Air pollution exposure is ubiquitous with demonstrated effects on morbidity and mortality. A growing literature suggests that prenatal air pollution exposure impacts neurodevelopment. We posit that the Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) program will provide unique opportunities to fill critical knowledge gaps given the wide spatial and temporal variability of ECHO participants. Objectives: We briefly describe current methods for air pollution exposure assessment, summarize existing studies of air pollution and neurodevelopment, and synthesize this information as a basis for recommendations, or a blueprint, for evaluating air pollution effects on neurodevelopmental outcomes in ECHO. Methods: We review peer-reviewed literature on prenatal air pollution exposure and neurodevelopmental outcomes, including autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, intelligence, general cognition, mood, and imaging measures. ECHO meta-data were compiled and evaluated to assess frequency of neurodevelopmental assessments and prenatal and infancy residential address locations. Cohort recruitment locations and enrollment years were summarized to examine potential spatial and temporal variation present in ECHO. Discussion: While the literature provides compelling evidence that prenatal air pollution affects neurodevelopment, limitations in spatial and temporal exposure variation exist for current published studies. As >90% of the ECHO cohorts have collected a prenatal or infancy address, application of advanced geographic information systems-based models for common air pollutant exposures may be ideal to address limitations of published research. Conclusions: In ECHO we have the opportunity to pioneer unifying exposure assessment and evaluate effects across multiple periods of development and neurodevelopmental outcomes, setting the standard for evaluation of prenatal air pollution exposures with the goal of improving children's health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110320
JournalEnvironmental Research
StatePublished - 1 May 2021


  • Air pollution
  • Brain
  • Neurodevelopment
  • Prenatal exposure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • General Environmental Science


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