Children's exposure to environmental pollutants and biomarkers of genetic damage: I. Overview and critical issues

Monica Neri, Stefano Bonassi, Lisbeth E. Knudsen, Radìm J. Sram, Nina Holland, Donatella Ugolini, Domenico Franco Merlo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the last decade, molecular epidemiological studies have provided new perspectives on studying environmental risks in pediatric populations, based on the growing understanding that children may be more susceptible to toxicants than adults. Protecting children's health is a social priority, and specific research programs have been initiated with this purpose in the United States and Europe. These programs address the development of (i) less invasive methods for biological specimens collection, (ii) specific tools for interpretation and validation of biomarkers, (iii) methods for translating biomarker results into intervention strategies and for integrating them with environmental monitoring and health data, (iv) optimal ways to obtain consent and provide information to children and/or their parents participating in the studies and (v) techniques for the effective communication with policy makers and the public. Critical issues in children's environmental research discussed in this paper include specific needs of study design, exposure assessment, sample collection and ethics. Special consideration is given to the autonomy of the child in giving consent, the details and nature of the information provided, and the need to warrant controlled access to sensitive information. The use of incentives such as gifts and payment to ensure the participation of school-aged children is specifically discussed. Examples of field studies that are focused on the effects of pesticides, air pollution and formaldehyde are used to illustrate advantages and limitations of biomarker studies in children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalMutation Research - Reviews in Mutation Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2006


  • Biological markers
  • Child welfare
  • DNA damage
  • Environmental pollution
  • Molecular epidemiology
  • Risk assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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