International Programme on Chemical Safety

Identifying important Life Stages for monitoring and assessing risks from exposures to environmental contaminants

This paper summarizes exposure-related issues to consider in determining the most appropriate age ranges and life stages for risk assessment. It then proposes a harmonized set of age bins for monitoring and assessing risks from exposures to chemicals for global use. The focus is on preconception through adolescence, though the approach should be applicable to additional life stages. A two-tiered set of early life age groups is recommended.

The first tier involves the adoption of guidance similar to the childhood age groups recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, whereas the second tier consolidates some of those age groups to reduce the burden of developing age-specific exposure factors for different regions.

While there is no single “correct” means of choosing a common set of age groups to use internationally in assessing early life exposure and risk, use of a set of defined age groups is recommended to facilitate comparisons of potential exposures and risks around the globe, the collection of data and analyses of aggregate exposure and cumulative risk.

Application of these age groups for robust assessment of exposure and risk for specific populations will require region-specific exposure factors as well as local environmental monitoring data.