Low-level exposure to chemicals that manipulate human hormones cost America upwards of $340 billion per year. This is the number discerned from a new study which took into account both health care costs and lost earnings.

According to NYU School of Medicine associate professor of pediatrics, environmental medicine and population health Dr. Leonardo Trasande, “In our study, we focused on the chemicals for which the evidence was strongest for their contribution to disease. In particular, we focused on flame retardants, which are used in electronics, furniture and a variety of other products.”

The researchers also looked specifically at pthlalates. These are the dangerous chemicals that have come to light over the past ten years, maybe, (chemicals used to make plastic soft), as well as chemicals known as bisphenols. These are the substances that line the inside of food cans. They also looked at certain pesticides.

Trasande notes that the endocrine disrupting chemicals found in these substances can, in fact, lower IQ and interfere with brain and metabolism; and this can even lead to birth defects. He adds that the largest single cost, in this study, comes as a result of the chemical effects on the developing brains of children.

Of course, health care “costs” are not the only concern—and certainly not the main concern—for families with young children. Trasande goes on to advise how these families can limit their exposure to these chemicals at home.
He explains, “Families can eat organic; they can avoid the use of pesticides in their homes to get rid of unwanted creatures; they can avoid aluminum can food consumption; they can avoid microwaving plastic and machine-dishwashing plastic containers,” noting especially the importance of avoiding plastic bottles with the numbers 3, 6 and 7 (on the bottom).

Trasande also makes sure to note that families can also “simply air out their homes every couple of days.” This will help to remove chemical dust from electronics and other such materials, particularly flame retardants that can be dangerous after long-term exposure.

Finally, he notes “The purpose of this analysis was to permit a transparent comparison of the costs of safer alternatives with the benefits of prevention in the form of the reduced health care costs and other downstream consequences,” adding that we do not yet have enough resources dedicated to screening chemicals for endocrine disruption.