Children as a sensitive subgroup and their role in regulatory toxicology: DGPT workshop report

M. Schwenk, U. Gundert-Remy, G. Heinemeyer, K. Olejniczak, R. Stahlmann, W. Kaufmann, H. M. Bolt, H. Greim, E. Von Keutz, H. P. Gelbke

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


There is increasing discussion that children might be considered as a specific subgroup in public health regulations which could be more sensitive than the average "adult" human being. Differences between children and adults, with regard to susceptibility towards toxicants, may result from a combination of toxicokinetic, toxicodynamic and exposure factors. Kinetic factors are of importance mainly in the early postnatal period, largely as the result of immature elimination systems, i.e. metabolising enzymes and/or renal function. Specific vulnerability may prevail during several time periods, related to the development and maturation of organs (for example, brain, bone, endocrine system). For some substances, it has been shown that children at a specific age are less sensitive than adults. Specific exposures of toddlers to environmental chemicals may be high due to their moving behaviour and hand-to-mouth activities. Existing scenarios and models for exposure of children should be improved, in particular with respect to different ages. The outcome of model calculations must be verified by human biomonitoring analysis. At present, there is ongoing discussion of toxicological test models suitable to delineate human postnatal development. Experience with infant-orientated test systems is scarce (for example in developmental neurotoxicity). In general, tools for predicting toxicological sensitivity of children must be further improved. Regulators should also be aware that reduction of lifestyle-related toxic exposures such as smoking and drug abuse in children and adolescents is now an increasing public health problem in many countries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-6
Number of pages5
JournalArchives of Toxicology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Children
  • Human development
  • Neurotoxicity
  • Risk assessment
  • Test systems


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