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This ScienceServ explores the promotion of children’s health through prevention of environmental exposures and other factors that undermine healthy development. We do this by distributing influential research articles, hosting partnership calls featuring new research relevant to children’s environmental health, and creating collaborative opportunities among researchers, advocates, public health professionals, patients, and healthcare providers all working on children’s health issues.
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CHE does not take a stance on specific legislation nor sign petitions and the like. Rather, we investigate and discuss the scientific foundation for more health-protective policies in a civil tone. For posting guidelines and etiquette, please see our CHEtiquette.
Partners in Washington State may wish to participate in CHE-Washington, whose working group activities focus on children’s environmental health.
CHE Partners subscribed to the CHE Children’s Health ScienceServ can access the listserv archive to view messages previously distributed. Current subscribers can send a message to this group at this address: Contact.
More about Children's Health
Due to their small size, children are at greater risk from exposure to toxic chemicals. Children eat, drink, and breathe more per pound than adults do. Also, children, especially the very young, are more susceptible to toxic chemicals because their organs are still rapidly developing, and growing organs are more vulnerable than mature organs and tissues. For example, the brain is not fully developed until the late teens, and grows especially rapidly during the first seven years of life. A toxic hit to the brain while it is forming can have more serious effects than one later in life.
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During infancy, the immature liver can not yet metabolize toxic agents as well as it will later in life. This is why the half-life of caffeine—the time required to reduce the substance to half its initial amount—can be measured in days for a newborn but in hours for an adult.
image from Cristyan González Alfonso at Creative Commons. modified
In addition to these physiological differences, children also behave in ways that increase their exposure to toxic agents in their environment: they play on the floor or ground, they put their hands in their mouths, and they actively investigate their surroundings. Combined with their low body weight, higher relative intake of food, water, and air, and their developmental stage, these behavioral factors contribute to elevated risks.
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For a long time, the placenta was thought to protect the developing fetus significant from hazardous agents. We know now that the majority of agents readily cross the placenta and expose the developing fetus to whatever foods and chemicals circulate through the mother's body. For compounds that readily distribute throughout body liquids, the amniotic fluid surrounding the infant will have the at least the same level of the compounds as the mother's blood. Fetal exposure to methylmercury can actually be higher than the mother's because the developing infant acts as a storage site for maternal mercury.
Many children's products may contain toxic chemicals. As just one example, many disposable diapers contain polyacrylic acid that can cause allergic reactions, from a rash to lesions. Many dyes linked to allergic reactions are also found in diapers. Diaper materials bleached with chlorine create small amounts of dioxin, a potential human carcinogen. See more information about baby products in CHE's Practice Prevention: Baby Care Products.
CHE's fact sheets and publications related to children's health are listed at right, along with several recommended sources of more information.