NEW YORK, New York, May 4, 2011 (ENS) - It cost a "staggering" $76.6 billion to cover the health expenses of American children who were sick because of exposure to toxic chemicals and air pollutants in 2008, according to new research by senior scientists at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.
Published in the May issue of the journal "Health Affairs," three new studies by Mount Sinai scientists reveal the economic impact of toxic chemicals and air pollutants in the environment, and propose new legislation to require testing of new chemicals as well as those already on the market.
In one of the studies, Leonardo Trasande, MD, associate professor of preventive medicine and pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and his team calculated the annual cost for direct medical care and the indirect costs, such as parents' lost work days, and lost economic productivity caring for their children, of these diseases in children.
"Our findings show that, despite previous efforts to curb their use, toxic chemicals have a major impact on health care costs and childhood morbidity," said Dr. Trasande.
Lead poisoning still costs the most at $50.9 billion a year, while autism is a distant second at $7.9 billion.
Intellectual disabilities cost $5.4 billion a year, exposure to mercury pollution costs $5.1 billion, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder costs $5 billion, asthma costs $2.2 billion, and childhood cancer costs $95 million.
"New policy mandates are necessary to reduce the burden of disease associated with environmental toxins," said Dr. Trasande. "The prevalence of chronic childhood conditions and costs associated with them may continue to rise if this issue is not addressed."
He advised reducing lead-based paint hazards and curbing mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.
"Given evidence that current ambient air quality standards remain insufficiently protective for children, ongoing efforts are needed to reduce outdoor air pollutant emissions and their consequences for children's breathing," he states in the study.
Obesity in children is also a result of toxic exposure, Dr. Trasande finds. "Emerging evidence, for example, is beginning to support the notion that endocrine-disrupting chemicals may contribute to the development of childhood obesity," he states. "Such chemicals are found in the environment, food, or consumer products and interfere with metabolism or normal hormone control or reproduction."
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