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A Helping Hand for Children’s Health

EPA’s “Highlights of the Child Specific Exposure Factors Handbook” is a great resource for children’s health experts.

Cover of Child Exposures handbook

Children are curious creatures. They eat dirt, touch bugs, and investigate anything and everything they can, simply because this exploration is how they learn. Sometimes, such behavior results in exposure to substances that can adversely affect their health. This risk is compounded by the fact that children’s bodily systems are not fully developed, and they eat, drink, and breathe more than adults in proportion to their body sizes.

In response, EPA is working hard to improve estimates of children’s exposure to chemicals in the environment, and to identify what can be done to minimize such exposures.

As a part of this goal, EPA released Highlights of the Child Specific Exposure Factors Handbook, a quick-reference guide to various factors used to estimate exposure. These factors define behavioral and physiological information about children such as: breathing rates, intake rates for drinking water and food, how much soil and dust are ingested, and skin contact information. This information is provided using a standard set of age categories for children so that exposure estimates can be made for children of all ages.

The information contained in the Handbook helps risk assessors make better exposure estimates, thus better informing decisions relating to the health and safety of children.  The Handbook is already in use both inside and outside EPA.  For example, the Agency used the data from the Child-Specific Exposure Factors Handbook in its analysis of exposure to children who may come in contact with arsenic, chromium, and copper while climbing on Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA) treated wooded playground equipment.  It has also been used in the Agency’s development of standard instructions for estimating exposure resulting from various consumer-related (non-occupational) pesticide uses, including lawn and garden care, foggers, and pet treatments.

Nearly every exposure and risk assessment conducted by the Agency uses the information on exposure factors included in the Highlights document. For children’s health experts and scientists like EPA’s Becky Cuthbertson, the Handbook is an invaluable tool for decision-making. “From a practicing risk assessor's point of view, finding the correct input quickly and easily is incredibly important,” says Cuthbertson, who was an integral part of the team that authored the document. “The revised handbook goes a long way, especially with the reorganizing of the recommended values in a table up front in each chapter.” The EPA hopes that the Highlights document willfacilitate experts’ access to exposure factors recommendations.

Highlights of the Child-Specific Exposure Factors Handbook is just one of the many ways in which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is working to protect children’s health. Through ongoing research, EPA scientists are publishing new findings and working towards scientific breakthroughs every day.

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