Testing methods for developmental neurotoxicity of environmental chemicals

Luz Claudio, Winston C. Kwa, Allison L. Russell, David Wallinga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Human brain development is slow and delicate, involving many unique, though interrelated, cellular events. The fetus and child are often more susceptible to chemical toxins that alter the structure and/or function of the brain, although susceptibility varies for individual neurotoxicants. Early exposure to neurotoxins has been implicated in neurological diseases and mental retardation. Pesticide exposures pose a particular concern since many are designed to be neurotoxic to pests and can also affect humans. Acknowledging the potential for vulnerability of the developing brain, EPA recently began to 'call in' data on developmental neurotoxicity (DNT) from manufacturers of pesticides already registered and considered to be neurotoxic - around 140 pesticides. Chemicals are to be tested following the DNT testing guideline (OPPTS 870.6300). This paper assesses whether tests performed according to this guideline can effectively identify developmental neurotoxicants. We found the testing guideline deficient in several respects, including: It is not always triggered appropriately within the current tiered system for testing; It does not expose developing animals during all critical periods of vulnerability; It does not assess effects that may become evident later in life; It does not include methodology for consideration of pharmacokinetic variables; Methodology for assessment of neurobehavioral, neuropathological, and morphometry is highly variable; Testing of neurochemical changes is limited and not always required. We propose modifications to the EPA testing guideline that would improve its adequacy for assessing and predicting risks to infants and children. This paper emphasizes that deficiencies in the testing methodology for developmental neurotoxicants represent a significant gap and increase the uncertainty in the establishment of safe levels of exposure to developing individuals. (C) 2000 Academic Press.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalToxicology and Applied Pharmacology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2000


  • Child health
  • Developmental neurotoxicity
  • Environmental health
  • Pesticides
  • Risk assessment
  • Testing guidelines
  • Toxicology


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