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Chemical Exposures Prove Costly for U.S.

Clicks:Updated:2016-10-19 09:10:50

Illness associated with exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) reportedly cost the U.S. economy over $340 billion annually, according to an analysis of data collected in the both the U.S. and the European Union.

Led by Leonardo Trasande, MD, of the NYU School of Medicine, the researchers identified the cost of fifteen diseases and dysfunctions linked with environmental EDC exposure, accounting for over 2% of the U.S.'s GDP, published The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

"Based on our analyses, stronger regulatory oversight of endocrine disrupting chemicals is needed, not just in Europe, but in the U.S.," said Trasande in a press release. "This oversight should include not only safety tests on the chemicals' use in the manufacture of commercial products before the chemicals receive government approval, but also studies of their health impact over time once they are used in consumer products."

The U.S., according to this analysis, is also paying a much higher cost for these exposures: $340 billion versus $217 billion in the EU, a difference that the authors attribute to a laissez faire approach to regulating EDCs in the U.S. In a 2015 study also led by Trasande, toxicological and epidemiological data was used to evaluate the strength of the relationships between exposure to various EDCs and a list of disorders. This assessment included various disorders such as loss of IQ points and consequent intellectual disability, ADHD, autism, adult and childhood obesity, adult diabetes, cryptorchidism, testicular cancer, male factor infertility, early cardiovascular mortality due to reduce testosterone, leiomyomas, endometriosis, fibroids, and birth defects. Using a model previously established by the Institute of Medicine, the researchers estimated cost ranges from the various disease burdens among the European Union.

In order to determine cost estimates for the U.S., the authors of the current study utilized data collected from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys in addition to the strength relationships data from the 2015 European study. Using a "cost-of-illness" approach to the data, the researchers calculated the estimated cost ranges for the same list of EDC-associated disorders that the European study previously examined.

"The greatest burden identified in the USA due to exposure to EDCs was neurobehavioral dysfunction resulting from in-utero exposure to PBDEs [polybrominated diphenyl ethers], illustrated by IQ points loss and intellectual disability," they wrote.

Exposure to these chemicals is quite common in everyday life since they are used in household products such as furniture and electronics. The researchers noted that one of the highest differences they examined between EDC exposure between the U.S. and the European Union was the regulation and use of flame-retardant chemicals such a PBDEs, which is not only used in furniture but also in infant car seats.

Although regulatory policy is arguably the best way to prevent EDC exposure and associated disease risk, the researchers suggest there are simple, everyday tips for reducing exposure.

"We can reduce our level of phthalate and bisphoneol-A exposure by avoiding microwaving plastic, looking at the recycling number on the bottom of plastic containers, avoiding the numbers 3, 6, and 7," Trasande recommended. "If plastic is obviously etched or scratched, it's a good time to throw it away. And canned food consumption is the most straightforward route to getting exposure to bisphenol-A through contact with foods' contact surfaces, and ultimately that's how that chemical gets into peoples bodies. In addition, we can eat organic and we can simply ventilate our homes." Watch Leonardo Trasande, MD, address the regulation of EDCs in a recent installment of MedPage Today's exclusive "Pearls From" video series here.

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