A review of the field on children’s exposure to environmental contaminants: A risk assessment approach

Alesia Ferguson, Rosalind Penney, Helena Solo-Gabriele

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Background: Children must be recognized as a sensitive population based on having biological systems and organs in various stages of development. The processes of absorption, distribution, metabolism and elimination of environmental contaminants within a child’s body are considered less advanced than those of adults, making them more susceptible to disease outcomes following even small doses. Children’s unique activities of crawling and practicing increased handto- mouth ingestion also make them vulnerable to greater exposures by certain contaminants within specific environments. Approach: There is a need to review the field of children’s environmental exposures in order to understand trends and identify gaps in research, which may lead to better protection of this vulnerable and sensitive population. Therefore, explored here are previously published contemporary works in the broad area of children’s environmental exposures and potential impact on health from around the world. A discussion of children’s exposure to environmental contaminants is best organized under the last four steps of a risk assessment approach: hazard identification, dose-response assessment, exposure assessment (including children’s activity patterns) and risk characterization. We first consider the many exposure hazards that exist in the indoor and outdoor environments, and emerging contaminants of concern that may help guide the risk assessment process in identifying focus areas for children. A section on special diseases of concern is also included. Conclusions: The field of children’s exposures to environmental contaminants is broad. Although there are some well-studied areas offering much insight into children exposures, research is still needed to further our understanding of exposures to newer compounds, growing disease trends and the role of gene-environment interactions that modify adverse health outcomes. It is clear that behaviors of adults and children play a role in reducing or increasing a child’s exposure, where strategies to better communicate and implement risk modifying behaviors are needed, and can be more effective than implementing changes in the physical environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number265
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2017


  • Children’s exposures
  • Children’s risk assessment
  • Environmental influences
  • Global burden of children’s diseases
  • Health
  • Life-stages

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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