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Chemical Exposure and Children

Industry trade group helps fund studies of pesticides, other chemicals

October 18, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 42

Credit: Lonny Shavelson/Picturedesk Intl.
A child of migrant workers in Florida plays with a pesticide spray bottle.
Credit: Lonny Shavelson/Picturedesk Intl.
A child of migrant workers in Florida plays with a pesticide spray bottle.

A team of government researchers, with support from the American Chemistry Council (ACC), is starting a project to determine how children come into contact with pesticides and other chemicals in their homes. Data from the study are important because chemical regulations are often written to protect children but little is known about their actual exposure levels.

The chemicals to be measured include pesticides, phthalates, brominated diphenyl ethers (flame retardants), and perfluorinated chemicals.

Researchers from EPA, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, and Florida's Duval County Health Department will participate in the project, which will involve 60 children, from birth to three years of age, all from Duval County.

"This study will help us to identify the potential exposure routes and pathways of these chemicals and provide real-life data that can be used to improve risk assessments for children," says Linda S. Sheldon, acting director of EPA's Human Exposure & Atmospheric Sciences Division.

On Oct. 12, ACC signed a Cooperative Research & Development Agreement with EPA, under which the trade group will provide $2.1 million to support the $9 million study. Because of ACC's contribution, the researchers are able to expand the chemicals monitored beyond pesticides. "By joining forces to encourage and incubate state-of-the-art research, we help protect public health now and in the future," ACC President Thomas Reilly says.

The children chosen to participate must live in homes with potentially high pesticide use. Their parents must agree to spray or have pesticides sprayed inside their homes routinely during the two-year study period, and will receive up to $970 for participating.

The homes and children will be monitored five or six times during the study for exposure levels before and after pesticide applications. Chemical concentrations will be measured in air, dust, and urine samples, and by analyzing chemicals absorbed in clothing.



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