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Exposure to genotoxic carcinogens at young age: experimental studies to assess children's susceptibility to mutagenic effects of environmental chemicals

Synopsis

Young animals do not appear to be more susceptible than adult animals to mutagenic effects of environmental chemicals Experimental animals can be more susceptible at a young age to the adverse effects induced upon exposure to environmental chemicals in comparison to adult animals. In research performed at the RIVM, the susceptibility to DNA mutations in young and adult animals was investigated for a selected set of substances. The results from this research suggest that increased susceptibility to mutagenic effects is dependent on the specific mechanism of action. Environmental chemicals may invoke DNA mutations through a variety of mechanisms. Usually, potential adverse human health effects of environmental chemicals are evaluated in toxicity studies using adult laboratory animals. Children and adults, however, may differ in sensitivity to these adverse effects. In previous research we found that exposure to benzo[a]pyrene, a chemical commonly found in grilled and broiled foods, tobacco smoke and automobile exhaust fumes, induced DNA mutations at a higher frequency in animals exposed at a young age in comparison to animals exposed at adult age. For the other three chemicals investigated in the present study we did not find any agerelated differences in genotoxicity. These findings suggest that increased susceptibility to mutagenic effects is dependent on the specific mechanism of action, which then is to be taken into account in chemical risk assessments of children.
 

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