Approaches to environmental exposure assessment in children

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An improved understanding of the contribution made by environmental exposures to disease burden in children is essential, given current increasing rates of childhood illnesses such asthma and cancer. Children must be routinely included in environmental research. Exposure assessment, both external (e.g., air, water) and internal dose (e.g., biomarkers), is an integral component of such research. Biomarker measurement has some advantages that are unique in children. These include assessment of potentially increased absorption because of behaviors that differ from adults (i.e., hand-to-mouth activity); metabolite measurement, which can help identify age-related susceptibility differences; and improved assessment of dermal exposure, an important exposure route in children. Environmental exposure assessment in children will require adaption of techniques that are currently applied in adult studies as well as development of tools and validation of strategies that are unique for children. Designs that focus on parent-child study units provide adult comparison data and allow the parent to assist with more complex study designs. Use of equipment that is sized appropriately for children, such as small air pumps and badge monitors, is also important. When biomarkers are used, biologic specimens that can be obtained noninvasively are preferable. Although the current need is primarily for small focused studies to address specific questions and optimize research tools, the future will require establishment of large prospective cohorts. Urban children are an important study cohort because of relatively high morbidity observed in the urban environment. Finally, examples of completed or possible future studies utilizing these techniques are discussed for specific exposures such as benzene, environmental tobacco smoke, aflatoxin, volatile organic compounds, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)827-832
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental health perspectives
Issue numberSUPPL. 3
StatePublished - 1998


  • Aflatoxin
  • Benzene
  • Biologic monitoring
  • Biomarkers
  • Children's environmental health
  • Chlorination byproducts
  • Environmental exposure assessment
  • Environmental tobacco smoke
  • Multimedia exposure
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
  • Volatile organic compounds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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