ETC HE Report 2023/14: Environmental health risks to children and adolescents: an umbrella review on chemicals

29 Feb 2024

Jos Bessems (VITO), Jurgen Buekers (VITO), Nicole Engelmann (Swiss TPH), Sarah Kienzler (UBA), Cristian Martucci (Swiss TPH), Dietrich Plass (UBA), Martin Röösli (Swiss TPH), Natasha Wauters (VITO), Gerardo Sanchez Martinez (EEA), Dario Piselli (EEA)

The goal of this report is to describe chemicals in the environment, which pose the highest risk to children and adolescents. This includes chemical characterization, description of the emission sources, characterization of exposure, characterization of health risks and discussion of the relevance for children’s health on a population level.
A scoping review yielded pesticides, lead, benzophenones and per/polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) to be of high priority for health risk assessment. Strong or suspected health effects of these chemicals include, among others, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), neurodevelopmental impairment, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), endocrine disruptions, genotoxic effects, IQ reduction and reduced vaccine antibody response. The exposure monitoring and the assessment of cumulative health effects for humans, and in particular for children, is a challenge. In several instances, newly introduced related compounds have demonstrated similar health effects (also known as regrettable substitution). This review has also found that for the protection of children from chemicals policy gaps exist in the EU framework and at national level, which need to be addressed.