A new study shows that endocrine-disrupting chemicals cause millions of people to develop a cohort of diseases such as attention deficit disorders, obesity, diabetes, and male infertility, which translates into $175 billion yearly healthcare expenses in Europe alone.
Linda Birnbaum, the director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), said that the numbers would be applicable in the U.S. as well, if not even higher.
The authors of the study explained that hormone-disrupting chemicals are substances that can replicate or block estrogen and other hormones. These chemicals are usually found in pesticides and processed foods, but plastics, cosmetics, and furniture also may contain them.
The recent study, which was published Thursday the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, is “a wake-up call” for European governments that are already debating whether to adopt a first-of-its-kind legislation targetting endocrine disruptors. If passed, the new regulations would have a deep impact on industries and their products worldwide.
Researchers found that the biggest costs were linked to the medical treatments of children whose brains were affected by the chemicals. These expenses totaled at least $146 billion per year.
“A major surprise was that the neurological effects were the most costly,”
noted one of the study co-authors.
However, it is not the first time a study associates hormone-disruptive chemicals found in pesticides and flame retardants with brain damage and thyroid problems, which may have a life-long impact on a child’s brain if they occur during pregnancy.
During their study, researchers examined several hormone-disrupting chemicals: the BPAs found in food and beverage cans and plastic bottles; phthalates found in vinyl products; DDEs found in the infamous DDT insecticide; organophosphate pesticides used to protect fruits, grains, and other crops from pests; and the PBDEs found in flame retardants that eventually got banned as furniture foams in both the E.U. and U.S.
Scientists explained that each type of chemical leads to a different type of health condition. For instance, BPA and DDE exposure heightens the risk of developing diabetes and obesity, phthalates affect male reproductive organs and could lead to infertility, while PBDEs and organophosphate pesticides may cause neurological problems.
However, these five account for only 5 percent of endocrine disruptors, explained Prof. Leonardo Trasande, the lead author of the study. The research team said that the five chemicals were chosen because they were the most cited products linked to hormone-related diseases in the scientific literature.
Prof. Trasande wrote in his paper that the strongest cause-and-effect link was found between flame retardants and pesticides and ‘neurological effects.’
Image Source: WebMD
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