Cost of hormone-disrupting chemical exposure in Europe in billions

March 10, 2015 — Exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC) is estimated to cost the European Union more than €150 billion ($209 billion) a year in health care expenses and lost earning potential, according to studies by a team of 18 international researchers, including two Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health faculty. Conditions linked to the chemicals included lowered IQ, male infertility, diabetes, and obesity.

The findings, published in a series of papers March 5, 2015 in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, were announced that day in Brussels and at the Society’s annual meeting in San Diego.

“The shocking thing is that the major component of that cost is related to the loss of brain function in the next generation,” study co-author Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor at Harvard’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health and professor of environmental medicine at the University of Southern Denmark, said in a March 6, 2015 article in the UK newspaper The Guardian. The study authors found the loss of brain function due to EDCs likely costs at least $146 billion per year. Treatment, special education, and other services for children with lower IQs, learning or behavioral disorders were included among the estimated direct costs. The largest cost was lifetime loss of income.

Grandjean and Russ Hauser, Frederick Lee Hisaw Professor of Reproductive Physiology at Harvard Chan, co-authored the summary paper. Each chaired a group of researchers who prepared specialty topic papers for the journal on neurobehavioral deficits and diseases and male reproductive disorders and diseases.

EDCs interfere with the body’s hormones. Found in food and food containers, plastics, furniture, toys, carpeting, building materials, and cosmetics, they contain chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, flame retardants, and pesticides such as chlorpyrifos. They are often released from such products and enter the bodies of humans through ingestion, dermal contact or inhalation.

“Costs in the U.S. would likely be quite similar, as exposures to EDCs are fairly similar to those occurring in the EU, although levels of flame retardants are much higher in the U.S.,” Grandjean said.

Read the Endocrine Society’s press release: Estimated Costs of Endocrine-Disrupting Chemical Exposure Exceed €150 Billion Annually in EU  

Read The Guardian article: Health costs of hormone disrupting chemicals over €150bn a year in Europe, says study

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– Marge Dwyer