On 22nd September 2003, LRI sponsored a workshop at the International Society for Exposure Assessment (ISEA) annual Conference on the “Data needs and research priorities for improved children’s exposure assessment to chemicals”. The workshop brought together a number of key agencies that are currently involved in research and/or policy development in the area. The intention of the workshop was to better understand:
• the major scientific needs presented by children’s exposures to chemicals;
• some of the major research activities that are currently planned or underway;
• how the European chemicals industry, through CEFIC, might direct elements of its LRI research programme to stimulate work in the area.
The workshop was co-chaired by Chris Money of ExxonMobil, and Chair of the human exposure related activities within CEFIC-LRI and Pertti (Bert) Hakkinen of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. The relevance and topicality of the subject was illustrated by the fact that over 150 people attended the workshop, with standing room only being available for latecomers.
Presentations & Discussions
Elaine Cohen Hubal, from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), provided an overview of current US initiatives in the field involving the EPA. A substantial amount of effort, way beyond that currently being embraced at the European level, is being invested in the US in better understanding the nature of children’s exposures to chemicals. It is also clear that groups embarking on research in this area need to be cognisant of the nature of wide ranging research being undertaken in the U.S.
Hubal identified a number of specific areas where further research was merited:
• More information on the determinants of exposure relevant to the use of chemicals in consumer products and articles e.g., migration data from polymers, frame formulations for key product groups and articles, etc.
• Describing and classifying the exposure behaviour of children in order that this can be consistently described and integrated into risk assessments.
• Development of validated biomarker exposure methods of relevance for children.
• Suitable risk assessment methods capable of integrating windows of high exposure/susceptibility, particularly during early childhood years and during pre-natal exposure.
• Screening approaches that ensure that resource demands, including regulation, are targeted appropriately.
David Gee, from the European Environment Agency (EEA), gave a wide-ranging presentation that built upon the work undertaken by the EEA on the vulnerability and value of children. His talk was well received, as it placed the relevance of science in the policy-setting context. Apart from highlighting the need for regulators to focus on children as a key target group for which specific regulation should actively be considered, he identified three areas as warranting further investigation:
• A better understanding of the critical time windows during pre-conception, foetal development and the early stages of infant life (including breast feeding), that appear to have a role in determining the health effects believed to be associated with such exposures.
• The development of representative European tissue banks that could form a basis for time trend analysis of key chemical indicators of exposure in sensitive tissues e.g. cord blood, breast milk, etc.
• A better understanding of the role that lifestyle factors, for example diet, and individual susceptibility have on the apparent risk of developing disease later in life.
Terri Damstra, from the World Health Organisation (WHO), reviewed the programmes being managed at the international level that are targeted at improving children’s health. Damstra emphasised the value that chemicals have brought and continue to bring in terms of the improvement of levels of health. But she also cited data on the effects of chemicals, particularly exposures in developing countries, which require attention at the international level. Damstra identified research needs that were, consequently, slightly different:
• That workable frameworks for characterising chemical exposures in developing countries need to be developed which generate consistent, relevant, high quality data in sufficient quantities across countries.
• That networks needed to be established between developed and developing countries in order to better share technologies and approaches.
• That guidelines, protocols, advise and methods needed to be generated and shared for the conduct of specific tests and methods relevant for exposure assessment.
Apart from the three principal speakers, the session was supported by two further oral contributions:
• Catherine Simoneau of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), described the considerations necessary in the development and validation of analytical methods for quantifying exposure, with a focus on phthalate plasticiser releases from some children’s toys.
• Virpi Tenhola of the National Public Health Institute of Finland (KTL), highlighted some of the difficulties and challenges in obtaining children’s exposure factor information at the European level, based upon the ExpoFacts project. The objective of the project is to prepare a sourcebook, which compiles the information needed in Europe for human exposure assessment and probabilistic exposure modelling, e.g., distribution statistics about human time allocations for activities and microenvironments, and population statistics such as gender, age, life expectancy, body weight, length and skin area…
Conclusions & Outcomes
The workshop raised the awareness of participants to the widespread and varying nature of the information gaps that currently characterise the understanding of children’s exposures to chemicals. Whilst much is understood or can reasonably be predicted, there are also significant areas where uncertainty remains high. CEFIC committed to take away the workshop’s findings and to begin to develop some of these into tangible RfPs, which could then be progressed through its LRI programme. These RFP’s would be communicated to those attending the ISEA conference, in order that they may participate in the research process. The attendees welcomed CEFIC’s commitment and pro-activity in this respect.
Virpi Tenhola of the National Public Health Institute of Finland (KTL)
Related Web Links of Interest
The work of the World Health Organisation on children’s health can be found at http://www.who.int/health_topics/child_health/en/
The recent and current work programmes of the US Environmental Protection Agency can be found at several Web sites, including
The recent publications of the European Environmental Agency on children’s health can be found at http://reports.eea.eu.int/
The background to and content of CEFIC’s LRI programme in the area of human health can be found at http://www.cefic-lri.org/
The European Commission’s European Information System on “Risks from chemicals released from consumer products/articles” (EIS-ChemRisks).programme is described at http://www.jrc.org/more_information/jrc-in-action/issue05/feature02.htm.Further information on the work of the Joint Research Centre’s Physical and Chemical Exposure Unit can be found at http://ihcp.jrc.it/
Further information on the ExpoFacts project can be obtained at http://www.ktl.fi/expofacts/
The European Union funded Policy Information Network on Children’s Health and Environment (PINCHE) is found at http://www.pinche.hvdgm.nl/