Children are not just 'little adults'.
Because they crawl around, touching and tasting everything, young
children are more exposed to pollutants present on or near the
ground. They are growing rapidly and their nervous and immune
systems are still developing, as is their metabolic capacity to
deal with environmental toxins. They breathe more air, drink more
water, and eat more food than adults relative to their body weight.
They consume large quantities of some foods, such as milk, that
are less prominent in the adult diet. Children are thus more exposed
and more vulnerable than adults to many environmental hazards.
Health protection standards for exposure to pollutants are often
based on data concerning adults. Despite the inclusion of 'safety
margins' to protect more vulnerable groups, the specificity of
children might not be sufficiently taken into account. KA4 hopes
to help to remedy such problems by targeting children and their
responses to various environmental hazards, thereby improving
their quality of life.
The PDCAAE projec(1) aims to see how the prevalence
of childhood asthma and allergies varies across
Europe and to assess possible links between
observed variations and known or suspected risk
factors. The project involves 15 study centres
in 13 European countries, using standardised
methods and a common protocol. Each centre is
studying a community random sample of at least
200 children between nine and 11 years of age.
Partners are determining serum IgE levels ('allergy
antibodies'), indoor exposure to allergens and
endotoxins, and genetic markers of childhood
asthma. The project will yield a pan-European
database on the prevalence of childhood asthma
and allergies. It will shed light on contributing
environmental factors and their interaction
with the genetic background.
PDCAAE is part of Phase II of a major worldwide
study: the International Study of Asthma and
Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC).
Prevalence and determinants of childhood asthma
and allergies across Europe: QLK4-1999-01288
Dr Stephan Weiland
Universität Münster (D)
exposure to allergies
The Plutocracy project(2) is examining the
hypothesis that developing foetuses become sensitised
to environmental pollutants as a result of maternal
exposure, and that this leads to higher allergy
levels in childhood.
The partners are measuring placental contamination
with selected pollutants, such as heavy metals
and organochlorines, as an indicator of maternal
exposure, and correlating this with the development
of allergic disease in childhood. They are looking
for early markers of sensitisation during intrauterine
development, and are studying the transport
of selected pollutants through the placenta
in laboratory models. The team is also examining
how selected pollutants affect placental enzyme
levels and immune function. Clinical examination
and assessment of postnatal exposure will help
to determine the relationship between risk factors
and allergy development. The results should
provide a basis for future allergy prevention.
Placental Uptake and Transfer of Environmental
Chemicals Relating to Allergy in Childhood Years:
Dr Margaret Saunders
University of Bristol Medical Physics Centre
indoors and out
The Airallerg project(3) is focusing on four
groups of four-year-olds with differing sensitisation/non-sensitisation
to common allergens and with or without respiratory
and allergic symptoms. The children were recruited
at birth into cohort studies in their respective
countries. Estimation of their exposure to components
of indoor and outdoor air pollution began during
their first year of life and is continuing with
the help of data collected in this project.
Airallerg will yield information on links between
allergies and exposure to outdoor air pollutants
(diesel exhaust, nitrogen dioxide) and indoor
air pollutants (dust mite and pet allergens,
environmental tobacco smoke, mould and bacterial
products, nitrogen dioxide and nitrous acid).
One original element in the project is that
it is seeking to identify interactions between
different types of exposure – in some
cases early exposure of one type might enhance
the effect of another, while in others some
degree of protection might be conferred.
Effects of outdoor and indoor air pollution on
the development of allergic disease in children:
Prof. Bert Brunekreef
Utrecht University (NL)
The objective of the Ranch project4 is to compare
how children and adults perceive and respond
to their 'soundscapes', and to examine how noise
levels affect the health and cognitive function
of children. The emphasis is on road and aircraft
noise, and the project is focusing on children
at school being exposed to a wide range of noise
The project hopes to yield:
- a health evaluation model for children;
- a test battery for child cognitive function;
- exposure-effect relationships for noise
and health, cognitive function, sleep and
- psycho-acoustical models for 24-hour noise
- policy recommendations based on a pan-European
database, applicable to the proposed Framework
Directive on the Assessment and Management
of Environmental noise.
Road Traffic and Aircraft Noise Exposure and Children's
Cognition and Health: Exposure-Effect Relationships
and Combined Effects: QLK4-2000-00197.
Prof. Stephen Stansfeld
Queen Mary and Westfield College, London (UK)