The health consequences of contaminants in the environment, with respect to the health of children and infants, recently have been dramatically brought to public attention by the motion pictures Erin Brockovich and A Civil Action. These productions focused public attention on the potential link between water contaminants and pediatric health, a continuing subject of public concern. As a consequence of the increasing production of new commercial chemicals, many chemicals have appeared in the scientific and public awareness as potential threats to health. These new or novel compounds eventually distribute in the environment and often are termed emerging contaminants. Gitterman and Bearer stated, "Children may serve as unwitting sentinels for society; they are often the youngest exposed to many environmental toxicants and may become the youngest in age to manifest adverse responses." The discipline of pediatric environmental health is still in its adolescence, but it will be increasingly important as new chemicals are generated and as more is learned about the health effects of chemicals already in commerce. Here, we provide an overview of recent advances in biomonitoring and environmental monitoring of environmental contaminants including emerging contaminants. Our purpose in writing this commentary is to make pediatricians aware of the current resources available for learning about pediatric environmental health and of ongoing research initiatives that provide opportunities to improve pediatric environmental health.
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Scientific advances provide opportunities to improve pediatric environmental health