A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism has attempted to quantify the costs associated with pesticides and chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates. The estimated cost in The European Union is estimated to be €157 billion ($209 billion U.S.) per year, and may be as high as €270 billion ($359 billion) a year and is directly associated with the endocrine disrupting ability of these substances; contributing to adverse health conditions.
The researchers focused on three categories of negative associated health effects: impact on the developing brain and neurodevelopmental disabilities, obesity and diabetes, and male reproductive disabilities.
Neurological health problems including ADHD were by far the most impactful, researchers concluded, at €132 billion per year.
The biggest economic cost driver was associated with loss of IQ and intellectual disabilities caused by prenatal exposure to pesticides containing organophosphates. The study estimated the harm done to unborn children costs society between €46.8 billion and €195 billion a year.
About 13 million lost IQ points and 59,300 additional cases of intellectual disability per year can be attributed to organophosphate exposure. Adult obesity linked to phthalate exposure generated the second-highest total, with estimated costs of €15.6 billion a year.
“Our findings suggest potentially that endocrine-disrupting chemicals are replacing lead and methylmercury as leading contributors to neurodevelopmental disease and disability in children,” said Dr. Leonardo Trasande, lead author on the papers and associate professor of pediatrics and environmental medicine at New York University School of Medicine.
“The analysis demonstrates just how staggering the cost of widespread endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure is to society,” said Trasande. “This research crystalizes more than three decades of lab and population-based studies of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the EU.” EDCs mimic, block or interfere with the body’s hormones.
The researchers estimate that the economic damage to the United States economy is on a similar scale and recommend lessening exposure to pesticides and chemicals.