Chemical exposure costs globally higher than thought

Costs associated with environmental chemical exposures worldwide may exceed 10% of the global gross domestic product, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researcher and EHESP School of Public Health in France. The authors said current calculations substantially underestimate the economic costs associated with preventable environmental risk factors.

The study was published December 4, 2017 in the journal Environmental Health.

“We’re talking about something that, in principle, is preventable,” said co-author Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at Harvard Chan School, said in a December 5, 2017 Environmental Health News article. “We ought to do a whole lot more for prevention—the gains could be huge.”

The researchers looked at exposures to contaminants such as air pollution, endocrine disrupting chemicals, lead, mercury, pesticides, and flame retardants and calculated how much they end up costing societies due to illnesses, reduced brain function, health care bills, and lost wages and productivity for employers. Gross domestic product is a measure of a country’s total economy, and includes the value of all goods and services produced. In 2016, the global GDP was $75 trillion, according to the World Bank.

“Our findings suggest that a revised paradigm is required for evaluating and prioritizing the environmental contribution to human illness and the associated costs,” Grandjean and co-author Martine Bellanger, wrote.

Grandjean said he hopes the new study gets into the hands of policymakers and health care providers and that it helps refocus our priorities in protecting people’s health.

Read the Environmental Health News article: Toxic exposures may cost the world 10% of GDP: Study