Children's health and vulnerability in outdoor microclimates: A comprehensive review

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105 Scopus citations


Children are routinely identified as a vulnerable population in environmental health risk assessments, experiencing adverse health outcomes due to exposure to a suite of atmospheric constituents. Objective: To provide a substantive overview of the research literature pertaining to biometeorological effects on children. Key information areas within urban environmental health research related to atmospheric variables (heat, air pollution, radiation) are assessed and integrated to better understand health outcomes and vulnerabilities in children. Critical avenues for improvement and understanding of children's health related to such biophysical parameters are also identified. Methods: This comprehensive review assesses past and current primary studies, organizational reports, educational books, and review articles. Emphasis is placed on the differential ambient exposures to temperature, air pollution, and radiation within urban microclimates commonly used by children (e.g., schoolyards, urban parks), and the resulting health impacts. Discussion: Exposure to heat, air pollution, and radiation are often enhanced in urban areas, specifically under the current design of the majority of outdoor child play places. Many heat indices, energy budget models, and health outcome studies fail to adequately parameterize children, yet those that do find enhanced vulnerability to ambient stressors, particularly heat and air pollution. Such environmental exposures relate strongly to behavior, activity, asthma, obesity, and overall child well-being. Current research indicates that a changing climate, growing urban population, and unsustainable design are projected to pose increasing complications. Conclusions: Evidence-based research to link children's health, physiology, and behavior to atmospheric extremes is an important future research avenue, underscoring the fact that children are among the population groups disproportionately affected by ambient extremes. However, current methods and population-based models lack child-specific inputs and outputs, as well as designated thresholds for accurate predictions of child health impacts. More substantive evidence is needed for applicable child-specific policies and guidelines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironment international
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Air pollution
  • Children
  • Environmental health
  • Heat stress
  • Radiation
  • Urban climate
  • Vulnerable

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)


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