The water crisis gripping Flint, Michigan has exposed thousands of children to unsafe lead levels, triggering a federal emergency declaration and national conversation about basic public health protections. Lead can be toxic to the brain, and children can be particularly vulnerable.

However, the Flint example is not unique; other American cities, including the nation’s capitol, have faced lead contamination in water supplies. And research has pointed more generally to an expanding list of chemicals, including certain pesticides, mercury and flame retardants, that may be linked to cognitive delays and health conditions in children. This Forum examined those links and the implications for both children and adults, while exploring public policy successes and failures in safeguarding the public’s health against neurotoxicants.