News Brief

Endocrine Disruptors Cost Society Millions, Says Report

Europe could be losing 1,300 million euros a year dealing with male reproductive illnesses caused by endocrine disruptors. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Cost of endocrine disruptors in EU

Making different assumptions about the number of incidents of reproductive illnesses that endocrine disruptors are actually responsible for, researchers estimate that health costs could amount to up to €1,200 million, and the same chemicals likely play a part in other illnesses as well.

Credit: Ing-Marie Olsson
Chemicals ubiquitous in consumer products that interfere with human hormones are costing millions of dollars in direct and intangible health costs, according to an economic analysis—and that’s just based on estimates of the havoc they wreak on the male reproductive system.

A report funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers estimates that endocrine disruptors cost Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) 36 million per year of exposure, assuming that they cause 20% of incidents of certain illnesses in the male reproductive system: testicular cancer, the birth defects hypospadias and cryptorchidism, and infertility due to low semen quality. If present costs caused by past exposure are included, that number jumps to 77 million. These amounts build up through hospital bills, lost wages, and intangible costs, such as loss of life-years or pain and suffering (intangible costs were not calculated for infertility).

Extrapolated to the whole EU, the price could amount to nearly 1,267 million per year, including present spending to mitigate past exposure. But that number is small, researchers say, considering that research suggests these chemicals may have other health impacts, too, such as hormone disruptions in females and metabolic disorders like obesity and diabetes (see Obesogens: A Fatty Issue).

The report recommends that the EU pass legislation to screen substances for endocrine-disrupting properties and to minimize exposure to substances that are identified. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been screening certain chemicals for their effects on the endocrine system since 2009, but many of these substances—like bisphenol-A (BPA), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), and certain phthalates—are still not regulated, even after coming close to being listed as chemicals of concern.

Published January 5, 2015

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