Workshop to Identify Critical Windows of Exposure for Children's Health: Reproductive Health in Children and Adolescents Work Group Summary
This workgroup report addresses the central question: what are the critical windows during development (pre-conception through puberty) when exposure to xenobiotics may have the greatest adverse impact on subsequent reproductive health. The reproductive system develops in stages, with sex specific organogenesis occurring prenatally, and further maturational events occurring in the perinatal period and at puberty. Complex endocrine signals, as well as other regulatory factors (genetics, growth factors) are involved at all stages. Evidence from animal models and human studies indicates that there are many specific events that can be perturbed by a variety of toxicants, with endocrine-mediated mechanisms being the more widely studied. Prioritized research needs include: basic studies on the cellular-molecular and endocrine regulation of sexual differentiation and development; increased efforts regarding potential adverse effects on development in females, including breast development; expanded animal studies on different classes of chemicals, comparing responses during development (prenatal and postnatal) with responses in adults; and, more extensive explorations regarding the reproductive biology and toxicology of puberty in humans.