Environmental Pollutants and Postnatal Growth

  • Peter D. Sly


Postnatal growth is determined by both genetic and environmental factors and is strongly influenced by prenatal growth. Adverse environmental exposures of the mother have the potential to impact on fetal growth and decreased length and weight at birth can have life long consequences. From a developmental standpoint, the timing of an exposure may have a major influence on the consequences of that exposure. This concept is known as “windows of susceptibility”. Children are generally more vulnerable to the consequences of adverse environmental exposures than adults and receive a relatively higher dose in a given environment. Strong evidence exists for adverse effects on somatic growth from exposures to lead and tobacco smoke, especially when these exposures occur prenatally. There is some or emerging evidence for adverse effects on somatic growth from exposures to ambient air pollution, persistent toxic substances, noise, aflatoxins and arsenic. There is also some evidence that exposure to higher levels of sunlight during the first trimester of pregnancy results in increased birth length and adult height but that growth during childhood and early adolescence is greater in those with more sunlight exposure during the third trimester. Failure to take into account the effects of environmental exposures on somatic growth may lead to incorrect estimates of the environmental impacts on lung function growth and on respiratory health. Environmental exposures that limit fetal growth, resulting in postnatal catch-up growth, may increase the risk of childhood obesity.


Fetal Growth Environmental Tobacco Smoke Blood Lead Level Somatic Growth Sunlight Exposure 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Dichlorodiphenyl dichloroethene


Environmental tobacco smoke




Nitric oxide


Nitrogen dioxide


Polychlorinated biphenyls


Particulate matter with less that 10 μM aerodynamic diameter


Sulphur dioxide


Suspended particulate matter


United States of America


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Queensland Children’s Medical Research Institute, QCMRI, The University of QueenslandHerstonAustralia

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