Chemicals Cost Us Our Health
There’s no doubt that there are many blessings brought about by technology and chemistry. But there’s a not-so-hidden cost, too, to our health.
Exposure to pesticides and other commercially used chemicals disrupt endocrine organs responsible for hormone production and can actually lower IQ levels. That means that we could see differences in populations who have had the most exposure versus those who haven’t, and those social costs in lost opportunity, healthy, and vitality could be difficult to accurately or rightly measure.
One thing that can be measured, according to the authors of this study, is that exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals may cost up to two percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the United States.
Attina TM, Hauser R, Sathyanarayana S, et al. Exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the USA: a population-based disease burden and cost analysis. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2016;4(12):996–1003.
Background: Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) contribute to disease and dysfunction and incur high associated costs (>1% of the gross domestic product [GDP] in the European Union). Exposure to EDCs varies widely between the USA and Europe because of differences in regulations and, therefore, we aimed to quantify disease burdens and related economic costs to allow comparison.
Methods: We used existing models for assessing epidemiological and toxicological studies to reach consensus on probabilities of causation for 15 exposure-response relations between substances and disorders. We used Monte Carlo methods to produce realistic probability ranges for costs across the exposure-response relation, taking into account uncertainties. Estimates were made based on population and costs in the USA in 2010. Costs for the European Union were converted to US$ (€1=$1·33).
Findings: The disease costs of EDCs were much higher in the USA than in Europe ($340 billion [2·33% of GDP] vs $217 billion [1·28%]). The difference was driven mainly by intelligence quotient (IQ) points loss and intellectual disability due to polybrominated diphenyl ethers (11 million IQ points lost and 43 000 cases costing $266 billion in the USA vs 873 000 IQ points lost and 3290 cases costing $12·6 billion in the European Union). Accounting for probability of causation, in the European Union, organophosphate pesticides were the largest contributor to costs associated with EDC exposure ($121 billion), whereas in the USA costs due to pesticides were much lower ($42 billion).
Interpretation: EDC exposure in the USA contributes to disease and dysfunction, with annual costs taking up more than 2% of the GDP. Differences from the European Union suggest the need for improved screening for chemical disruption to endocrine systems and proactive prevention.