Annual healthcare costs and lost earnings in the United States from low-level but daily exposure to hazardous chemicals commonly found in plastic bottles, metal food cans, detergents, flame retardants, toys, cosmetics, and pesticides, exceeds $340 billion, according to a new study.
The investigators who performed the calculations say the massive toll from everyday contact with endocrine-disrupting chemicals amounts to more than 2.3 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
Included in the team’s analysis, described online October 17 in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, are estimated costs from more than 15 medical conditions linked by previous research to toxic levels of these chemicals.
Scientists say chemical exposure occurs through gradual ingestion and buildup of these toxins as consumer products are used and break down.
According to researchers, endocrine-disrupting chemicals have for decades been known to pose a danger to human health because the compounds can interfere with natural hormone function.
Such chemicals include bisphenol A (BPA), commonly used to line tin food cans; phthalates, used in the manufacture of plastic food containers and many cosmetics;
polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)-like polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, found in flame retardants in furniture and packaging; and pesticides, such as chlorpyrifos and organophosphates.
However, the researchers say their new analysis, which took three years to complete, is the first U.S. assessment of the costs associated with routine endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure and resulting increases not only in rates of neurological and behavioral disorders, but also in rates of male infertility, birth defects, endometriosis, obesity, diabetes, and some cancers, as well as diminished IQ scores.
“Our research adds to the growing evidence on the tremendous economic as well as human health costs of endocrine-disrupting chemicals,” says study lead investigator and health epidemiologist Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP, an associate professor at NYU Langone.
For the new study, the NYU Langone team reviewed blood sample and urine analyses for documentation on the presence of endocrine disrupting chemicals in participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
Since 1999, NHANES, as it is known, has gathered information about the prevalence of and risk factors for major diseases by annually surveying 5,000 volunteers.
Advanced computer models were then used to project disease totals attributable to chemical exposure and to calculate the estimated health costs and lost income for each disease.
According to Trasande, their analysis shows that yearly exposure to highly toxic fire-resisting PBDE chemicals and pesticides accounted for nearly two-thirds of the total endocrine-disrupting chemical disease burden, and mostly from neurological damage these chemicals cause in the unborn.
Specifically, he says, annual PBDE exposure was estimated to account for 11 million lost IQ points in children, an additional 43,000 cases of “intellectual disability,” and an associated disease burden of some $266 billion.
Meanwhile, pesticide exposure was estimated to cost 1.8 million lost IQ points and lead to 7,500 more disability cases each year, with total health costs of $44.7 billion.
News source: NYU. The content is edited for length and style purposes.
Figure legend: This Knowridge.com image is for illustrative purposes only.