Many chemicals can cross the placenta and may cause permanent damage to the child. Because children are exposed to environmental hazards at an earlier age than adults are, they have more time to develop slowly progressing environmentally triggered diseases. From conception through adolescence, they are in a dynamic, often sensitive, state of growth as their immature nervous, respiratory, reproductive and immune systems develop.
Children’s bodies, behaviors and size all make them both different from and more vulnerable than adults to many environmental health hazards. Typical early childhood behaviors – eating only one kind of food for days on end, crawling, digging in dirt, putting objects in the mouth - all can lead to increased exposures. Pound for pound, young children drink more water, eat more food and breathe more air than adults.