[Environmental chemical hazards and child health]

Carlos Augusto Mello-da-Silva, Ligia Fruchtengarten
Jornal de Pediatria 2005, 81 (5): S205-11

OBJECTIVES: To review the recent medical literature on environmental chemical hazards to child health.

SOURCES OF DATA: Articles published on this subject between 1999 and 2005 were searched in the MEDLINE database. Books, manuals and statements on child environmental health, issued by institutions such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization, were also reviewed.

SUMMARY OF THE FINDINGS: There has been a growing concern in the last few years with the exposure of children to environmental chemicals. Around 85,000 synthetic chemicals are produced today, and 2,800 of them are mass-produced. There is little knowledge regarding their effects on developing organisms. Children have a greater exposure to environmental pollutants than adults, because their metabolic needs and behaviors (e.g.: crawling, bringing objects to the mouth, playing closer to the ground) put them at special risk of contact with chemicals when they breathe, eat, drink or play. Heavy metals, pesticides, persistent organic pollutants and, at home, environmental tobacco smoke have been associated with the increasing number of diseases such as asthma, neurodevelopmental disorders and childhood cancer.

CONCLUSION: Screening of risk situations using tools such as Environmental History has been stimulated alongside a greater commitment of pediatricians towards measures that can reduce the exposure of children and adolescents to environmental chemicals.

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