How many chemicals are in our teens?

teenager eating
Is there a relationship between chemical exposure and young people’s health, behaviour and brain function? What are the current levels of pesticides and other chemicals in Australian teenagers?

An RMIT University research project is seeking volunteers to help increase understanding of these critical issues.

Researchers are seeking parents of children aged 14 to 16 for the Children’s Health, Behaviour & Environmental Exposures (CHeBEE) project, investigating teenagers’ cognitive function, health symptoms, behaviour and food habits.

The project will examine the levels of pesticides and environmental chemicals in the children’s urine, heavy metals in their hair and the genetic variation in detoxification enzyme pathways.

Recently published RMIT research found that eating a mainly organic diet for seven days could reduce pesticide exposure in adults by almost 90 per cent.

CHeBEE project lead investigator Professor Marc Cohen, from the School of Health Sciences, said there was little known about the levels of pesticides and other chemicals in Australian children and any associated adverse health effects.

“What we do know is that children are at much higher risk than adults from industrial chemicals and heavy metals, and many chemicals have effects on children’s brain development and learning,” Professor Cohen said.

“We also know that exposure to different chemicals vary with location, behaviour, age and diet, and that there is a wide variation in people’s genetic ability to detoxify different chemicals.

“What we don’t know – and hope to find out – is the levels of pesticides and heavy metals in Australian children and how levels vary with age, location, different health complaints or genetic profile.”

As part of the research, parents will complete a series of online questionnaires and collect urine, hair and cheek cell samples from their child. Children will play a brief computer game to assess their cognitive function.

The project – which has been approved by the RMIT Human Research Ethics Committee – is supported by a grant from the Australian Government through Enterprise Connect and Australian Organic.

Listen to Dr Liza Oates and Professor Marc Cohen talk about their research on Radio National.

For more information: To register your interest in being involved contact Dr Liza Oates, or 0412 310 390.