Axis 1, Team 9 | Environmental pre- and post-natal exposure, pregnancy, infant development

This research program studies the impact of exposure to environmental and professional chemical contaminants during pregnancy on intra-uterine development and on the infant's development.

  1. Objective
  2. PELAGIE Mother–Child Cohort
  3. Timoun Mother–Child Cohort
  4. Exposure to the Zika virus and to pesticides during pregnancy and children's health (ZIP study)
  5. Desert sand dust and foetal development (BrumiSaTerre study)
- - Environmental pre- and post-natal exposure, pregnancy, infant development - © IRSET


For several decades now, many research projects have shown the role of exposure to certain chemical contaminants during the foetal stage and in childhood on the child's health and future development. This can also affect health at later stages in life.

As is the case for the population at large, pregnant women and children are exposed to a large number of chemical contaminants which are liable to have a toxic effect on different body systems (endocrine, immune, nerve, etc.). There are many different kinds of contaminants, including drugs and cosmetics, industrial products (e.g. polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs), agricultural products (e.g. pesticides), biocides, solvents or plastifying agents.

In this field of research, the most robust results are obtained through longitudinal studies of mother-child/birth cohorts combined with precise measurements of pre- and post-natal exposure to environmental contaminants. It is recommended to follow through these studies at least until the children reach puberty.


PELAGIE Mother–Child Cohort

- - PELAGIE mother-child cohort - © IRSET

The PELAGIE study (Endocrine disruptors: A Longitudinal Study of Pregnancy Abnormalities, Infertility and Childhood) was implemented in response to health issues, particularly in children, caused by the presence of toxic compounds in their everyday environment. Some 3,500 mother-child pairs have been followed in Brittany since 2002.

The study was implemented in Brittany in 2002. It included 3,421 pregnant women, recruited at their first prenatal visit to a gynecologist-obstetrician or ultrasonographer in the Breton "departments" (Ille-et-Vilaine, Côtes d'Armor and Finistère). These women and their babies were followed from birth with the cooperation of Brittany maternity wards and their midwives and pediatricians.

The children's environment and health were subsequently monitored at ages 2 (2004-2008) and 6 (2008-2012), via a self-administered questionnaire addressed to the parents. A sub-group of 1 in 10 children in the cohort was randomly chosen for a more in-depth follow-up of the children's cognitive and psychological development and of their cerebral activity by medical imaging, as well as of their everyday environment. The follow-up in adolescence is currently under way and will enable us to study whether the pollutants encountered in our environment from childhood have any impact on the teenager's health.

Find out more: :


Timoun Mother–Child Cohort

- - Timoun Mother–Child Cohort Study - © IRSET

The TIMOUN study (child in the creole dialect) was implemented in the French West Indies  in the Caribbean  in response to issues raised by environmental pollution from the use of chlordecone and its effects on pregnant women and on children's health. The study covered one thousand women, between 2005 and 2007, during the third term of their pregnancy. The children were monitored at ages 3, 7 and 18 months, then at age 7. Questionnaires were addressed to parents on their home environment and on their child's development and tests were carried out with the children to assess their neuro-cognitive and motor development. A follow-up study of the children belonging to this cohort as they reach puberty, is in the process of being implemented.

Exposure to the Zika virus and to pesticides during pregnancy and children's health (ZIP study)

The ZIP study (ZIKA INTERACTION PESTICIDES) aims to assess the interaction between exposure to neurotoxic pesticides (including chlordecone) and in utero exposure to the Zika virus, in the advent of abnormalities in central nervous system development in children born during or just after the Zika epidemic in Guadeloupe (French West Indies).   It is based on the participation of women during their pregnancy and the monitoring of babies at the age of 18 months undertaken under the ZIKA-DFA-FE cohort coordinated by the Inserm-Antilles Guyane CIC.

Desert sand dust and foetal development (BrumiSaTerre study)

BrumiSaTerre - © IRSET

The French West Indies are regularly affected by desert sand dust episodes caused by fine sand particles blown across from the Sahara Desert.  These sand dust storms can last for several consecutive days and regularly lead to atmospheric pollution alerts.  There have been few studies on the effects of these sand dust storms on human health and the conclusions vary according to the studies and the regions where they were carried out. The aim of the BrumiSaTerre project is to study the link between exposure to airborne Saharan sand particles and foetal development in the population of Guadeloupe, and to characterize these sand dusts in terms of mineralogical, chemical and microbiological analysis. The study is based on medical data previously acquired in the Timoun mother-child cohort.
See the BrumiSaTerre newsletter (pdf file in french) for further information.