Journal Issue: Critical Issues For Children and Youths Volume 5 Number 2 Summer/Fall 1995
Cynthia F. Bearer
In policymaking on environmental health, it is often assumed that the entire population is exposed to and reacts to environmental contaminants in a similar manner. However, this assumption is misguided, especially where children are concerned. This article presents the scientific basis for the impacts of the environment on children, showing how children are different from adults in the ways in which they are exposed to environmental contamination and the ways in which they react to it when exposed. Specifically, the article examines the changing physical and biological environments of children. Children at different stages of development have unique physical risk factors for certain types of exposure because of changing location, levels of mobility, oxygen consumption, eating patterns, and behavior. When children are exposed to contaminants, their developing biological makeup—the way in which they absorb, distribute, and metabolize chemicals—will also affect how their bodies deal with the foreign substance. Each of these factors, along with the customs, laws, and regulations that affect the way in which children are exposed to the contaminants, has implications for the well-being of children in the years to come.