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A field of soybeans. (Photo: Tom Erickson/flickr/cc)

A field of soybeans. (Photo:  Tom Erickson/flickr/cc)

Toxic Chemicals Costing Society Billions in Damages to Human Health Alone

New study finds hormone-disrupting chemicals found in pesticides, plastics, and more driving staggering—and costly—human health problems

Sarah Lazare

Hormone-disrupting chemicals found in human-made products—from plastics to pesticides—are causing health problems that cost society billions, a new study finds.

Published Thursday in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, the examination was conducted by eighteen researchers in eight countries and is the first attempt to quantify the concrete costs of these chemicals.

According to researchers, the costs come to more than $170 billion a year in Europe alone—what they call a "conservative" estimate.

But beyond the dollar amount, the human health problems the study highlights are staggering.

"Global experts in this field concluded that infertility and male reproductive dysfunctions, birth defects, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and neurobehavioral and learning disorders were among the conditions than can be attributed in part to exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs)," reads a summary of the research.

Nneka Leiba, deputy director of research for Environmental Working Group, points out that endocrine-disruptors are found in common products around the world: "Potent hormone disruptors such as bisphenol A, or BPA, are in the lining of most canned goods and on many cash register receipts. Phthalates are in PVC plastic, food packaging and personal care products. And brominated flame retardants are ubiquitous in most upholstered furniture."

Researchers found that, in the EU, intellectual disabilities caused by prenatal exposure to pesticides containing organophosphates—which are endocrine disruptors—were the number one cause of this high cost.

"The analysis demonstrates just how staggering the cost of widespread endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure is to society," said Leonardo Trasande, associate professor at New York University who led the study. "This research crystallizes more than three decades of lab and population-based studies of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the EU."

And Leiba notes "this is not just a European problem. Americans are routinely exposed to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in everyday consumer products."

Leiba adds, "All of them are everywhere in American households."


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