From: Secretary, ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety <secretary**At_Symbol_Here**DCHAS.ORG>
To: DCHAS-L <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU>
Sent: Sun, Mar 22, 2015 12:18 pm
Subject: [DCHAS-L] Chemical Exposure Linked to $175 Billion in Health Care Costs
Date: Sat, 21 Mar 2015 09:27:08 -0700
Subject: Chemical Exposure Linked to $175
Billion in Health Care Costs
Linked to $175 Billion in Health Care Costs
Researchers conclude they are 99
percent certain that hormone-altering chemicals are linked to attention
problems, diabetes, other health
By Elizabeth Grossman, for National Geographic
PUBLISHED March 05,
Many crops, like this one in California, are treated with pesticides
linked to neurological effects in studies of children.
hormone-disrupting chemicals is likely leading to an increased risk of serious
health problems costing at least $175 billion (U.S.) per year in Europe alone,
according to a study published Thursday.
Chemicals that can mimic or block
estrogen or other hormones are commonly found in thousands of products around
the world, including plastics, pesticides, furniture, and cosmetics.
research estimated health care costs in Europe, where policymakers are debating
whether to enact the world's first regulations targeting endocrine disruptors.
The European Union's controversial strategy, if approved, would have a profound
effect on industries and consumer products worldwide.
Linda Birnbaum, the
leading environmental health official in the U.S. government, called the new
findings, which include four published papers, "a wake-up call" for policymakers
and health experts.
"If you applied these [health care] numbers to the U.S.,
they would be applicable, and in some cases higher," says Birnbaum, director of
the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
detailed the costs related to three types of conditions: neurological effects,
such as attention deficit disorders; obesity and diabetes; and male reproductive
disorders, including infertility.
Some hormone-altering chemicals in consumer
products have been linked to increased risk of diabetes.
estimated costs, by far, were associated with chemicals' reported effects on
children's developing brains. Numerous studies have linked widely used
pesticides and flame retardants to neurological disorders and altered thyroid
hormones, which are essential for proper prenatal brain development.
researchers concluded that there is a greater than 99 percent chance that
endocrine-disrupting chemicals are contributing to the diseases, according to
the studies published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and
Tip of the Chemical Iceberg
The estimate was limited to a
handful of chemicals commonly found in human bodies: bisphenol-A (BPA), used in
hard plastics, food-can linings, and paper receipts; two phthalates used as
plasticizers in vinyl products; DDE, the breakdown product of the banned
insecticide DDT; organophosphate pesticides, including one called chlorpyrifos
used on grain, fruit, and other crops; and brominated flame retardants known as
PBDEs that were extensively used in furniture foams until they were banned in
Europe and the United States.
BPA, DDE, and the phthalates were examined for
their links to obesity and diabetes, phthalates for male reproductive effects,
and flame retardants and organophosphate pesticides for neurological
Together, these represent about 5 percent of endocrine disruptors-or
"the tip of the proverbial iceberg," says Leonardo Trasande, an associate
professor of pediatrics and environmental medicine at New York University School
of Medicine. He was the main study's lead author.
"The chemicals were chosen
based on the quality and amount of available evidence," says Bruce Blumberg, a
University of California, Irvine, professor of developmental and cell biology
and co-author of the obesity and diabetes paper.
Evidence linking the
pesticides and flame retardants to neurological effects was the strongest,
showing "near certainty of causation," Trasande wrote in a summary.
researchers also reported that chemicals contribute "substantially" to obesity,
diabetes, and male reproductive disorders. Those findings were based on previous
research, largely in the United States and Europe, that tracked the exposures
and health of people over extended periods of time.
The estimated health care
cost associated with chemicals in plastics is at least $28 billion per year,
according to the researchers.
Extent of Harm Debated
Nevertheless, at the
heart of the debate about endocrine disruptors is whether the science has
adequately established that they actually are contributing to increases in human
Daniel Dietrich, a toxicologist at University of Konstanz in
Germany, questions whether the traces of chemicals that people encounter through
products, food, and environment are large enough to cause harm. He also
questions whether hormone disruption itself should be considered a health
effect, an issue which is central to the European Union's policy debate.
can only judge on the available science. Maybe in 30 years we will judge this
differently," says Dietrich, who has served on European Union science panels and
is a former adviser to a chemical industry-funded group called the European
Centre for Ecotoxicology and Toxicology of Chemicals, or
Representatives of pesticide-manufacturing companies criticized the
report, saying that "to ascribe these disorders to endocrine disrupting
chemicals in the environment is misleading and potentially harmful." Pesticides
undergo thorough testing for effects, and "based on the results for estrogenic
activity, pesticides are not of concern," according to a statement by the trade
group CropLife America. Some pesticides, however, have been linked in some
studies to estrogenic and other hormonal effects.
expressed similar concerns, saying without proven health effects, the study
could "create potentially unnecessary public health concerns" and misallocation
of scarce funds.
Neurological Effects Most Costly
To arrive at their cost
estimates, the researchers used data that their expert panels agreed provided
"the strongest causal evidence," Trasande says. To calculate the likelihood of a
particular chemical causing a specific health effect, they used methods
previously developed by the U.S. Institute of Medicine, the World Health
Organization, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This enabled
them to calculate each chemical's contribution to the prevalence of a disorder,
then assign a value to the health care costs.
"A major surprise was that the
neurological effects were the most costly," totaling at least $146 billion per
year, says study co-author Philippe Grandjean, a professor of environmental
medicine at the University of Southern Denmark and an adjunct professor at
Harvard's T. H. Chan School of Public Health. Those estimated costs included
treatment as well as providing special education and other services for children
and others with lower IQs or learning or behavioral disorders.
On its own,
hormone disruption is not a health effect, Grandjean says, but it leads to "very
important adverse effects and is something we can test for and therefore
Birnbaum, who did not participate in the new research, said
evidence is mounting that people's health is being jeopardized by an array of
commonly used chemicals.
"The point is that there is a wide variety of
effects being seen in the general population related to endocrine-disrupting
chemicals. We have increasing amount of data raising concerns about their use,"
Birnbaum says. "We are seeing effects from [chemical] levels that are present in
the general population."
To put $175 billion in perspective, it is more than
the combined proposed 2016 budgets for the U.S. Department of Education,
Department of Health and Human Services, National Park Service, and
Environmental Protection Agency combined.
"The overall estimates in my
opinion are very conservative," says study co-author R. Thomas Zoeller, a
University of Massachusetts, Amherst biology professor who specializes in
chemicals that disrupt thyroid hormones.
Following years of analysis, the
European Commission is now reviewing more than 27,000 public comments on its
controversial proposal defining endocrine-disrupting chemicals. A lawsuit has
been filed against the commission by Denmark, Sweden, and the EU Council of
Ministers over failing to meet a December 2013 legal deadline for introducing
The European Commission expects to complete an "impact
assessment" of potential regulation of the chemicals in 2016, an effort begun in
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