Knowledge on the exposure part of the risk assessment is equally important as knowledge on the toxicological endpoints, but this knowledge is scarce. During the last few years, considerable attention is given to children as a sensitive subpopulation in chemical risk assessment

A child’s exposure pattern to a consumer product can be very different from that of an adult. Exposure assessment for children requires consideration of child-specific behaviours and activities when defining exposure scenarios. RIVMNational Institute for Public Health and the Environment developed guidance for child-specific exposure assessments for non-food consumer products (Van Engelen et al., 2007).


OECD Children’s exposure decision tree

OECD’s Working Party on Exposure Assessment (WPEA) developed a children’s exposure decision tree on when children should be considered specifically in a product safety assessment or substance risk assessment aiming to enhance awareness for inclusion of children’s exposure in risk assessments when relevant. The decision tree facilitates risk assessors in determining whether a separate assessment for children is necessary.


Hand-to-mouth contact

Hand-to-mouth contact is a child specific behaviour that can lead to a relevant exposure for children. RIVM has proposed new default values for assessing the degree of exposure of children to chemicals following hand-to-mouth contact (Ter Burg, 2007). 

The OECD is also working on this subject, in July 2019 a study of Health Canada has been published in which RIVM has contributed with several case studies. The case studies lead to a list of good practices with respect to risk assessment of chemical substances in articles via hand mouth contact in children.


Chemical substances in toys

Another important source of exposure for children is chemical substances in toys, for which RIVM has developed a special risk-based methodology at the request of DG-Enterprise of the European Commission (Van Engelen et al, 2008). Default values for estimation of exposure using the ConsExpo model can be found in the Children’s toys Fact sheet.


Topical RIVM studies

Examples of RIVM studies in which exposure scenarios of children have been relevant are the evaluation of health risks of playing sports on synthetic turf pitches with rubber granulate, the assessment of the product limit for PAHs in rubber articles: the case of shock-absorbing tiles  and the RIVM/NVWA study on risk assessment on phtalates in toys .