Daily exposure to ‘eternal chemicals’ is costing the US billions in healthcare costs

DAccording to a new study, daily exposure to a class of chemicals used in the production of many household items can lead to cancer, thyroid disease and childhood obesity. The resulting economic burden is estimated to cost Americans a minimum of $5.5 billion and up to $63 billion over the lifetime of the current population.

The new work focuses on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a group of more than 4,700 man-made chemicals that experts have detected for decades in the blood of millions of people. The chemicals are used, for example, in the production of water- and oil-resistant non-stick clothing, electronics and cooking utensils, and people are thought to ingest them when food comes into contact with food. contact with packaging. The substances are thought to disrupt hormone function, signaling compounds that influence many bodily processes.

Led by researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, the new study of approximately 5,000 Americans identified 13 medical conditions that may result from exposure to PFAS, such as infertility, diabetes and endometriosis, a disorder sore uterus. Together, the illnesses generate medical bills and reduce worker productivity throughout their lifetime to create the costs measured by the study, the study authors state.

“Our findings add to the substantial and ever-growing body of evidence suggesting that exposure to PFAS harms our health and undermines the economy,” says study co-author Linda G. Kahn, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Population Health at NYU Langone Health.

Previous investigations have quantified the medical burden and financial costs of low birth weight due to exposure to PFAS. However, the new study, published online July 26 in the journal Exposure and healthincorporates a much wider range of health consequences across the lifespan, says Dr. Kahn.

For the survey, researchers determined the number of Americans likely to be exposed to PFAS chemicals in 2018 using blood samples taken from adults and children who participated in the US survey of health and nutrition. Next, the study team analyzed data from dozens of studies over the past decade that explored substance-related illnesses.

The research team used models from past surveys to estimate the national economic cost of medical bills and lost worker productivity resulting from the top five medical conditions that had the strongest links to PFAS exposure. These included low birth weight, childhood obesity, kidney cancer, testicular cancer and hypothyroidism.

Among the findings, the survey found that childhood obesity was the largest contributor to the overall economic cost of PFAS exposure, costing an estimated $2.7 billion. Hypothyroidism in women, a condition in which the thyroid cannot release enough hormones into the bloodstream, was the second highest contributor at $1.26 billion.

The study researchers also broadened the scope of their economic estimates to include eight other conditions with preliminary links to PFAS exposure, including endometriosis, obesity in adults and pneumonia in children. When these diseases were taken into account, the total costs reached $63 billion.

“Our results strongly support the recent decision by the Environmental Protection Agency to lower the acceptable level of these substances in water,” said study lead author Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP. “Based on our estimates, the cost of eradicating the contamination and replacing this class of chemicals with safer alternatives is ultimately justified given the enormous economic and medical risks associated with their persistence in the environment. .”

Dr. Trasande, Jim G. Hendrick, MD, professor in the Department of Pediatrics and professor in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone, warns that despite extensive research into the health risks of PFAS, few studies have explored the effects of this exposure over time.

The research team next plans to examine the long-term risks of PFAS, adds Dr. Trasande, who is also director of the Center for the Investigation of Environmental Hazards at NYU Langone. In addition, the study authors plan to estimate the economic burden of other endocrine-disrupting contaminants, such as bisphenols, substances used in many plastics and can coatings, fire retardants and pesticides.

Funding for the study was provided by grants P30ES000260, P2CES033423, and K99/R00ES030403 from the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences.

Dr. Trasande has received financial support from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Audible, Paidós and Kobunsha, as well as travel support from the Endocrine Society, World Health Organization, United Nations Environment Program , the Japanese Ministries of Environment and Health, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. He also sits on the Scientific Advisory Boards of Beautycounter, ISGlobal and Footprint. The terms and conditions of these arrangements are administered in accordance with NYU Langone Health policies.

In addition to Dr. Kahn and Dr. Trasande, Vladislav Obsekov, MD, at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, served as the study’s first author.

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