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  • Writer's pictureLaura Sesana

Chemical Exposure Costs €1.4B in Women’s Healthcare in EU

WASHINGTON—Exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, believed to contribute to reproductive health problems in thousands of women, costs the European Union (EU) an estimated €1.4 billion every year in related healthcare and lost earning potential, according to a new study published online today in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

“The data shows that protecting women from exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals could substantially reduce rates of disease and lower health care and other social costs of these conditions,” said Dr. Leonardo Trasande, study author and Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Environmental Medicine & Population Health at NYU Langone Medical Center.

Researchers analyzed rates of uterine fibroids and endometriosis, two common conditions that in combination affect at least 70 percent of women. Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths in the uterus that can be a factor in infertility and other health problems; endometriosis is a painful condition where uterine tissue grows outside the uterus.

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC) can interfere with the hormone system and cause birth defects, cancerous tumors and other developmental disorders. Prior research has established a link between EDCs and both conditions. Specifically, DDE, a byproduct of the pesticide DDT, has been linked to a higher risk of uterine fibroids; and phthalates, a group of chemicals found in cosmetics and plastic products, have been linked to a higher risk of endometriosis.

This study is part of a larger series of studies that analyzed the costs associated with EDCs in relation to a range of health issues including birth defects, male reproductive problems, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and developmental disorders. The series concluded that EDC exposure costs Europe more than €157 billion every year.

Using data provided by a panel of global EDC experts who adapted existing environmental health costs models and assessed the contribution of environmental factors in causing illness, researchers estimate that exposure to EDCs can be linked to 56,700 cases of uterine fibroids and 145,000 cases of endometriosis.

In their economic analysis, researchers included the costs of hospital stays, doctor services, and other direct medical costs. They also included estimates of indirect costs like lost worker productivity.

Researchers limited the study to uterine fibroids and endometriosis because there was abundant data regarding incidence and their relationship to EDCs.

“Although these two gynecological conditions affect millions of women worldwide, we recognize that this analysis only reflects the tip of the iceberg,” said Trasande. “A growing body of evidence suggests EDC exposure is linked to a broader range of female reproductive problems, including polycystic ovary syndrome, infertility and pregnancy complications. These disorders also place a significant cost burden on women, their families and society as a whole.”

More information is available in the Endocrine Society’s 2015 Scientific Statement on endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

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