Children & Adolescents – Introduction


Like adults, children are exposed to a wide range of environmental agents that may be harmful to health; these include air pollutants, toxins in water and food, chemicals (pesticides, mercury, lead), as well as noise and environmental radiation (UV radiation, radiofrequency radiation, radiation from the electric grid, etc.). The nature of the environmental agent, the timing of exposure and the degree of exposure determine the risk of developing diseases.


Why are children and adolescents considered a population at risk?



Children are not little adults. Their physical and mental characteristics are different from those of adults.  This difference is also reflected in the differential distribution of conditions of health and morbidity.


  • Children's bodies differ from those of adults in height and weight, in skull thickness, in body fat and water content, in the electrical conductivity of different body tissues, etc.

  • Children have a different biological susceptibility to developing certain diseases, compared to adults.

  • Children's behavioral patterns are different from those of adults, and these may lead to different exposure to certain environmental agents.

  • Children have a long life expectancy during which they may be repeatedly exposed to the same agents, thus accumulating considerable exposure to risk factors that could cause long-term health damage in adulthood.

Exposure of children to health hazards and development of cancer

In general, cancer in children is rare; the risk of developing most cancers increases with age.  However, cancer in adults may also develop due to exposure accumulated many years earlier, when they were children or even babies.

The inverse relationship between age at exposure to carcinogens (such as X-rays or smoking) and the risk of developing cancer later in life is well known (i.e. the younger the age of exposure, the higher the risk for developing cancer).  For instance, the risk of developing cancer in an individual who began smoking at age 16 is greater than in one who began at age 40.

One explanation for this lies in the relatively higher rate of cell division in children compared to adults. After birth, the body's systems continue to grow and mature, especially the central nervous system, the blood system, the immunological system, the endocrine system (controlling hormone secretion), the reproductive system, and the skeletal system. The high rate of cell division in growing children enables the accumulation of damage to the hereditary material (DNA).  This accumulation may eventually lead to the development of cancer.


Below are some articles on exposure to non-ionizing radiation and health of children and adolescents

Below are some articles on legislation and policy regarding exposure of children and adolescents to non-ionizing radiation:

Mobile phones:

The use of Wi-Fi in schools

The electric grid