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9 March 2015

Study emphasizes the enormous cost of poorly regulated toxic chemicals

On 5 March, researchers from the New York University School of Medicine disclosed a study concluding that endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are associated with an increased risk of serious health problems costing at least 157 billion euros per year in Europe alone.

EDCs interfere with the functioning of the body’s hormone system. They have been linked to cancer, diabetes and infertility.

The estimate was limited to chemicals commonly found in human bodies: bisphenol-A (BPA), used in hard plastics, food-can linings, and paper receipts; two phthalates used as plasticizers in vinyl products; DDE, the breakdown product of the banned insecticide DDT; organophosphate pesticides and brominated flame retardants.

The biggest estimated costs, by far, were associated with chemicals' reported effects on children's developing brains. Numerous studies have linked widely used pesticides and flame retardants to neurological disorders and altered thyroid hormones, which are essential for proper prenatal brain development. The study attributes at least 5% of European autism cases to EDC exposure.

At European level, the issue is hotly debated. On 29 January 2015, the EU Council of Ministers decided to back Sweden in taking the European Commission to the European Court of Justice for not enacting a regulation on EDCs.

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