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In recent years neurodevelopmental problems in children have increased at a rate that suggests lifestyle factors and chemical exposures as likely contributors. When environmental chemicals contribute to neurodevelopmental disorders developmental neurotoxicity (DNT) becomes an enormous concern. But how can it be tackled? Current animal test-based guidelines are prohibitively expensive, at $1.4 million per substance, while their predictivity for human health effects may be limited, and mechanistic data that would help species extrapolation are not available. A broader screening for substances of concern requires a reliable testing strategy, applicable to larger numbers of substances, and sufficiently predictive to warrant further testing. This review discusses the evidence for possible contributions of environmental chemicals to DNT, limitations of the current test paradigm, emerging concepts and technologies pertinent to in vitro DNT testing and assay evaluation, as well as the prospect of a paradigm shift based on 21st century technologies.
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