Health problems from common chemicals cost US $340 bn : Study

Routine contact with plastic bottles, toys, food cans, cosmetics that contained "endocrine-disrupting chemicals" led to annual costs exceeding $340 billion, a huge price tag that came in the form of poor health, increased medical bills and lost income, according to researchers.

Routine exposure to such chemicals is known to lead to toxic buildup of the chemicals and potentially a variety of medical conditions.

The largest single cost came from chemical effects on the developing brains of children, according to Dr Leonardo Trasande, an associate professor at NYU Langone and lead investigator of the study.

According to Trasande, by taking a few simple steps families would be able to limit the exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the home.

"Families can eat organic; they can avoid the use of pesticides in their homes to get rid of unwanted creatures; they can avoid aluminum can food consumption; they can avoid microwaving plastic and machine-dishwashing plastic containers," Trasande said, noting that it was important to avoid plastic bottles with the numbers 3, 6 and 7 on the bottom. (Note: 3 stands for PVC, 6 represents polystyrene, 7 represents plastics invented after 1987)

The research found that flame retardants like PBDEs, phthalates, widely used in cosmetics and scented products, plastic component DEHP and organophosphate pesticides were among the chemicals linked to health issues in the US.

According to commentators, the study contributed to a growing debate about how best to assess and manage the safety of common chemicals.

Research conducted earlier had shown that Europe, where regulations required manufacturers to prove the safety of chemicals prior to their hitting shelves lost a significantly smaller share of its GDP due to endocrine disrupting diseases than the US.