Detailed reviews of the literature on environmental chemical pollutants have been recently compiled and promulgated in articles and complete books.1-9 Simply to extract the material on the infant and child and represent it here will serve no constructive purpose. Instead, I hope to recast certain facets of the problems from the point of view of that substratum of clinical pediatrics, developmental biology. The purpose will be to stimulate investigation into what we of this Committee have come to see as a series of pressing biologic problems confronting children and their attending clinicians.
In developing this topic, it seems clear that there will be overlap with the other portions of this Conference. A goal here will be to focus attention on the age-specific aspects of the environment and the host that best illuminate problems relating to the infant and child. Our subject, the traditional one for pediatrics, occupies a developmental niche which is a continuance from fetal life and into adolescence. The infant and child have anatomic, physiologic, biochemical, pharmacologic, and behavioral distinctions known, at least, to pediatricians. Less obvious is the fact that he (or she) also has a different environment owing to size, physical and intellectual capacity, and especially cultural and social practices affecting architecture, commerce, hygiene, recreation, and education. In the broad sense, behavioral customs including religious or pseudoreligious beliefs also play a role for the infant and child in creating his or her specific environment, including its chemical concomitants.
These last factors have received less emphasis in any orderly fashion, at least for children; hence, more stress shall be placed here as a reminder that those of us with a special interest in children must not only see the child in his special biologic role, but also must place him in his special and sometimes even unique environment.