Children's environmental chemical exposures in the USA, NHANES 2003-2012

Children are vulnerable to environmental chemical exposures, but little is known about the extent of multiple chemical exposures among children. We analyzed biomonitoring data from five cycles (2003–2012) of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to describe multiple chemical exposures in US children, examine levels of chemical concentrations present over time, and examine differences in chemical exposures by selected demographic groups. We analyzed data for 36 chemical analytes across five chemical classes in a sample of 4299 children aged 6–18. Classes included metals, pesticides, phthalates, phenols, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. We calculated the number and percent of chemicals detected and tested for secular trends over time in chemical concentrations. We compared log concentrations among groups defined by age, sex, race/ethnicity, and poverty using multiple linear regression models and report adjusted geometric means. Among a smaller subgroup of 733 children with data across chemical classes, we calculated the linear correlations within and between classes and conducted a principal component analysis. The percentage of children with detectable concentrations of an individual chemical ranged from 26 to 100%; the average was 93%, and 29 of 36 were detected in more than 90% of children. Concentrations of most tested chemicals were either unchanged or declined from earlier to more recent years. Many differences in concentrations were present by age, sex, poverty, and race/ethnicity categories. Within and between class correlations were all significant and positive, and the principal component analysis suggested a one factor solution, indicating that children exposed to higher levels of one chemical were exposed to higher levels of other chemicals. In conclusion, children in the USA are exposed to multiple simultaneous chemicals at uneven risk across socioeconomic and demographic groups. Further efforts to understand the effects of multiple exposures on child health and development are warranted.

Publication Date:
Nov 20 2017
Date Submitted:
Nov 30 2018
Environmental Science and Pollution Research International

 Record created 2018-11-30, last modified 2019-04-03

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