Massive health tab for hormone-disrupting chemicals

Massive health tab for hormone-disrupting chemicals, by AFP.

Exposure to tiny doses of hormone-disrupting chemicals is responsible for at least $340 billion in health-related costs each year in the United States, according to a report published Tuesday.

So-called endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are found in thousands of everyday products, ranging from plastic and metal food containers, to detergents, flame retardants, toys and cosmetics.

Neurological damage and behavioural problems, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism and loss of IQ, accounted for at least four-fifths of these impacts, researchers said in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, a medical journal.

The invisible but dangerous chemicals also boosted obesity, diabetes, some cancers, male infertility and a painful condition known as endometriosis, the abnormal growth of tissue outside the uterus.

When I was a kid hardly anyone had ADHD, asthma, allergies, eczema, autism, etc — compared to now, when every second kid has something. And obesity is now rampant in adults. So it sure seems like we’ve done something bad to our environment. Maybe this is it.

The body’s endocrine tissues produce essential hormones that help regulate energy levels, reproduction, growth, development, as well as our response to stress and injury.

Mimicking naturally occurring hormones such as oestrogen and androgen, EDCs lock on to receptors within a human cell and block the body’s own hormones from binding with it. …

In the US, the biggest chemical culprit by far among the thousands of manmade molecules suspected of interfering with human hormones are so-called PBDEs, found in flame retardants.

Bisphenol A, used to line tin food cans, along with phthalates in plastic food containers and many cosmetics, were also held to be responsible for upward of $50 billion worth of health damages. …

Crucially, the main drivers of disease and disability were different on either side of the Atlantic, Trasande said. “US costs are higher mainly because of the widespread use in furniture of brominated flame retardants,” which were banned in the EU in 2008, he explained. The blood level of these chemicals in the average American would be in the top five percent of Europeans today.

By contrast, the health costs associated with pesticides in food were 10 times higher in the EU than in the United States, where more stringent regulations were put in place to protect pregnant women and children.

Flame retardants and pesticides in particular are known to affect the developing brain and can lead to loss of IQ.

“Each IQ point lost corresponds to approximately two percent in lost productivity,” Trasande explained.