Chemicals present in everyday objects, many of which are commonly found in most U.S. households such as flame retardants, plastic bottles, metal food cans, cosmetics, pesticides and detergents, are making Americans sick.
Exposure to these chemical costs the U.S. more than $340 billion per year in treatment and lost earnings, findings of a new study revealed.
The amount is more than twice the yearly cost of $163 billion in the European Union, where current regulations limit exposure to these chemicals known as endocrine disruptors.
Researchers said that their findings show the benefits of regulating endocrine disruptors, which can mess up with the body's hormone system and cause unwanted developmental, neurological, reproductive and immune problems.
For the study published in the journal The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, Leonardo Trasande, from New York University Langone Medical Center, and colleagues reviewed blood sample and urine analyses that documented the presence of the chemicals among participants of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
The data allowed the researchers to estimate the total costs associated with exposure to the chemicals based on direct costs of treatment and indirect cost of lost earnings or productivity, and then compared these to the findings of the same study conducted in Europe.
Researchers said that the $340 billion figure could be a conservative estimate, since only the cost of 5 percent of known endocrine disrupters were calculated. They did not include the emotional welfare costs associated with diseases such as human suffering.
The difference in costs is largely attributed to the widespread use in the U.S. of a chemical mixture in furniture that make them less flammable. This chemical blend called polybrominated diphenyl ethers, which has been restricted in Europe since 2008, caused about 43,000 cases of intellectual disability in the U.S per year. In Europe, the cases were only 3,290. PBDEs are also linked to a loss of 11 million IQ points in the U.S. per year and 873,000 lost IQ points in Europe.
"EDC exposure in the USA contributes to disease and dysfunction, with annual costs taking up more than 2 percent of the GDP. Differences from the European Union suggest the need for improved screening for chemical disruption to endocrine systems and proactive prevention," the researchers wrote in their study.
Researchers said that there are ways for people to limit exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as by eating organic food products, avoiding the use of pesticides at home, limiting the use of aluminum canned food as well as avoiding microwaving and dishwashing plastic.