A recent article in the British medical journal The Lancet estimated the cost of exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the US to be greater than similar costs in Europe. Disease costs in the US were estimated at $340 billion, 2.3% of the US GDP, as compared to recent estimates of $217 billion in Europe, equivalent to 1.28% of European GDP.
The research, funded by the Endocrine Society and two foundations, concluded that “Differences from the European Union suggest the need for improved screening for chemical disruption to endocrine systems and proactive prevention.” The study’s authors suggested that the main difference between US and European exposure could be accounted for by IQ points lost and “intellectual disability” due to PBDEs, a class of flame retardants used in upholstered furniture from the 1970s through the early 2000’s. PBDE exposure contributed approximately $266 billion in the US versus $12.6 billion in the European Union. By contrast, costs from the use of organophosphate pesticides contributed $121 billion of exposure costs in Europe versus $42 billion in the US.
These and other articulations of the externalized costs of indiscriminate chemical use in consumer products and agricultural applications highlight the urgent need to find safer alternatives that provide function and performance while taking human and environmental health impacts into consideration.