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The influence of low blood lead concentrations on the cognitive and physical development of primary school children

As can be seen upon reviewing the current state of the evidence on the physical environment and child development, very little work has documented the impacts of environmental conditions on the development of children growing up in the global South and other low-income countries. This is unfortunate for many reasons. Foremost, the majority of the world’s children grow up outside of the affluent countries where most of the work has transpired. In fact, Bornstein and colleagues (2012) argue that less than 10% of developmental science research has studied communities that account for 90% of the world’s population.

What we do know suggests that the physical environment experienced by children impacts their cognitive and socioemotional development across the lifespan, from the prenatal period through adulthood. The development of interventions to improve the physical environments experienced by children across the globe is thus warranted. Interventions would also offer tremendous research opportunities to examine how environmental improvements can change developmental trajectories. This would also help address perhaps the major methodological weakness in most work on children and the physical environment: potential selection bias. Comparisons between children living in different environmental conditions nearly always face the alternative explanation that some individual characteristic rather than environmental conditions might be the root cause of developmental changes. Another critical reason for studying children in the global South and elsewhere outside of high-income countries is the severely restricted range of environmental conditions typically monitored in research on child settings in North America and Western Europe