A High Price to Pay: Burden of Disease and Costs of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals in the European Union

March 24, 2015
10:00 am US Eastern Time

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This call discussed the significant new papers published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism on the Burden of Disease and Costs of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals in the European Union on March 6. The new economic analysis found exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals likely costs the European Union €157 billion a year in actual health care expenses and lost earning potential.

Global experts in this field concluded that infertility and male reproductive dysfunctions, birth defects, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and neurobehavioral and learning disorders were among the conditions that can be attributed in part to exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). The €157 billion estimate is conservative, and represents 1.23 percent of Europe’s gross domestic product (GDP). These costs may actually be as high as €270 billion ($359 billion), or 2% of GDP.

The series of papers is the outcome of work by an international steering committee of scientists led by New York University. The authors presented the findings on March 6 at simultaneous press events at ENDO 2015, the Endocrine Society’s 97th Annual Meeting & Expo, and in Brussels, Belgium.

“The analysis demonstrates just how staggering the cost of widespread endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure is to society,” said Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Environmental Medicine & Population Health at NYU Langone Medical Center, who led a team of eighteen researchers across eight countries in this landmark initiative. “This research crystalizes more than three decades of lab and population-based studies of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the EU.”

This call will feature Dr. Trasande and Dr. Grandjean who will share how this study assessed the economic burden of EDC exposure, including the cost models as well as what this analysis includes, and discuss how these costs may be similar magnitude in the United States.

 “Although this analysis was limited to the European Union, the disease and cost burden of exposure is likely to be on the same order of magnitude in the United States and elsewhere in the world,” Trasande said.

A member of the study steering group will also highlight the public health considerations of the findings for exposure reduction.

“Our findings show that limiting exposure to the most common and hazardous endocrine-disrupting chemicals is likely to yield significant economic benefits,”said one of the study’s authors, Philippe Grandjean, MD, PhD, Professor of Environmental Medicine at the University of Southern Denmark and Adjunct Professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “This approach has the potential to inform decision-making in the environmental health arena. We are hoping to bring the latest endocrine science to the attention of policymakers as they weigh how to regulate these toxic chemicals.”

CHE is planning to host additional calls featuring authors from individual papers in the series in the coming months.

Featured Speakers

Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Environmental Medicine & Population Health at NYU Langone Medical Center. Dr. Trasande's research focuses on identifying the role of environmental and other factors in chronic childhood disease, and documenting the economic costs for policy makers of failing to prevent them proactively. Dr. Trasande is perhaps best known for a 2011 study in Health Affairs which found that children's exposures to chemicals in the environment cost $76.6 billion in 2008. His analysis of the economic costs of mercury pollution played a critical role in preventing the Clear Skies Act (which would have relaxed regulations on emissions from coal-fired power plants) from becoming law. He has also published a series of studies which document increases in hospitalizations associated with childhood obesity and increases in medical expenditures associated with being obese or overweight in childhood. These studies have been cited in the Presidential Task Force Report in Childhood Obesity, and another landmark study identified that a $2 billion annual investment in prevention would be cost-effective even if it produced small reductions in the number of children who were obese and overweight.

Dr. Trasande serves on a United Nations Environment Programme Steering Committee which is developing a Global Outlook on Chemicals Policy, and on the Executive Committee of the Council for Environmental Health of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He recently served on the Board of Scientific Counselors for the National Center for Environmental Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. His work has been featured on the CNN documentary Planet in Peril and in National Geographic, and frequently appears on national media, including NBC's Today Show, ABC's Evening News and National Public Radio.

Philippe Grandjean, MD, DMSc, is Professor of Environmental Medicine at the University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark and, since 2003, Adjunct Professor at Harvard School of Public Health. He is also Consultant in Toxicology at the National Board of Health, Denmark. He became a founding Editor-in-Chief of the scientific journal “Environmental Health” in 2002. He serves on the European Environment Agency's scientific committee and on the World Health Organization’s advisory committee on health research. Most of his more than 500 scientific publications relate to adverse effects in children exposed to chemical pollutants. His book “Only One Chance - How Environmental Pollution Impairs Brain Development – and How to Protect the Brains of the Next Generation” was published by Oxford University Press.

The call was moderated by Elise Miller, MEd, CHE's director. The call was co-hosted by CHE's European colleagues at the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL).

The next call in this series: A High Price to Pay: Diabetes, Obesity and Associated Costs of Exposure to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals in the European Union.