The Invisible Threat Crushing the Healthcare System

From Rodale News

Think chemicals are safe just because they’re allowed in your soaps, cleaners, and favorite foods? Unfortunately, that’s simply not the case. Hormone-disrupting chemicals, also known as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), are likely hiding out in homes all across America. And a recent, groundbreaking analysis published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found these chemicals are causing massive harm to not just our bodies, but also the healthcare system.

A new economic analysis found exposure to EDCs likely costs the European Union at least 157 billion Euros (that’s $209 billion in U.S. dollars!) a year in actual healthcare expenses and lost earning potential. (Learn more about hormone-disrupting chemicals.)

Global experts in this field concluded that infertility and male reproductive dysfunctions, birth defectsobesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and neurobehavioral and learning disorders were among the conditions than 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 percent of GDP.

“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, and population health at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. “This research crystalizes more than three decades of lab and population-based studies of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the EU.” (Check out this list of 12 dangerous hormone-disrupting chemicals likely hiding out in your home.)

These numbers compiled from European Union data are probably similar to the healthcare costs we’re experiencing in America, the study author notes. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that exposures to EDCs are in many cases equal to if not higher than those in the EU, Dr. Trasande says. This means that the cost of EDC-mediated diseases is likely to be in the same order of magnitude in the United States, researchers said.

“These findings also speak to the importance of policy. Insofar as the United States remains behind Europe in eliminating the use of brominated flame retardants, the cost of effects on the developing brain is likely to be higher,” Dr. Tresande notes. “Insofar as the United States has regulated the use of chlorpyrifos more effectively than Europe, the costs of that exposure in the U.S. is likely to be lower. More importantly, this speaks to the importance of reprising these analyses in the United States context.”

Even though nearly 100 percent of us have hormone-disrupting chemicals in our bodies, families can take safe and simple steps to reduce EDC exposures. EDCs mimic, block, or interfere with the body’s hormones. EDCs include biphenol A (BPA), found in water bottles and can linings, certain phthalates, found in plastic products and cosmetics, flame retardants, and pesticides such as chlorpyrifos.

To protect yourself:
• Avoid canned foods and opt for fresh or frozen whenever possible.
• Avoid microwaving or washing plastic in the dishwasher, since it causes the plastic to break down more quickly.
• Better yet, ditch plastic and opt for food-grade stainless steel, glass, or ceramic food and drink containers.
• Eat organic to avoid hormone-disrupting pesticides found on and inside of the food. (Here are great plastic-free food storage ideas.)
• Avoid soaps, cleaners, and personal care products listing “parfum” or “fragrance” on the ingredients label.
• Avoid chemical-based air fresheners and scented candles. If you love candles, opt for ones made of beeswax.
• Don’t believe claims that natural gas is “clean.” Organize to stop fracking and related high-pressure natural gas pipelines in your area. Fracking uses many hormone-disrupting chemicals known to damage human health.

 

BY LEAH ZERBE for rodalenews.com