Children's Environmental Health: Special Concerns for Children - EH: Minnesota Department of Health

Children's Environmental Health
Special Concerns for Children

Children may be more exposed to certain environmental contaminants via:

  • Air intake
  • Food and drink consumption
  • Dermal exposure
  • Transplacental exposure

Environmental contaminations may affect children differently than adults for a number of reasons including:

  • Children have unique behaviors, leading to unique exposures
  • Children are still developing, possibly making them more sensitive than adults
  • Children have more future years over which disease can develop

Children may be more exposed to environmental contaminants because they eat, drink, and breathe more per pound of body weight than adults. Children also have higher skin surface area to body weight ratios and greater contact with their surroundings therefore, may absorb a larger dose of a pollutant on a body weight basis than would an adult.3 Very young children also have unique behaviors, such as mouthing objects and crawling on floors. These behaviors will increase the contact that young children have with contaminants in soil and dust. The diets of infants and children are also different than adult diets. During infancy children drink breast milk or formula, and once weaned, children do not have a varied diet but are slowly introduced to new foods. Adverse health effects can result from parental exposures before conception, the time period near conception, and during pregnancy, as well as during childhood through adolescence.4 Depending on the timing of the exposure, there may be different health effects. Some chemicals that get into a pregnant woman's body will cross the placenta and may even concentrate in fetal tissue.5 From birth through childhood, children differ from adults in their ability to absorb, metabolize, and excrete contaminants.6 Another reason that environmental contaminants may pose a greater risk to children than adults is that children have more future years to develop diseases with long latency periods.7

Some examples of contaminants that specifically affect children differently are lead and methylmercury, which can lead to developmental problems. Please visit these links for more information on the effects and prevention of:


Updated Monday, 20-Sep-2021 14:32:56 CDT