Environmentally Mediated Diseases and Costs Increasing

Economic burden of environmentally mediated diseases in children was $76.6 billion in 2008

TUESDAY, May 31 (HealthDay News) -- The annual economic burden of environmentally mediated diseases in U.S. children increased from $54.9 billion in 2002 to $76.6 billion in 2008, according to a study published in the May issue of Health Affairs.

Leonardo Trasande, Ph.D., from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and Yinghua Liu, from the National Children's Study New York-Northern New Jersey Center -- both in New York City, updated the 2002 analysis of annual costs of environmentally mediated diseases in U.S. children. They expanded the previous analysis to include prenatal methylmercury exposure and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The investigators found that the total environmentally attributable costs increased from $54.9 billion in 2002 to $76.6 billion in 2008. These include costs of $50.9 billion for lead poisoning, $7.9 billion for autism, $5.4 billion for intellectual disability, $5.1 billion for methylmercury toxicity, $5 billion for ADHD, $2.2 billion for asthma, and $95 million for childhood cancer. Further cost increases can be prevented by premarket testing of new chemicals, toxicity testing on chemicals in use, reducing lead-based paint hazards, and curbing mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.

"Our principal finding is that chemical factors in the environment continue to contribute greatly to childhood morbidity and to health care costs," the authors write. "This analysis re-emphasizes for policy makers the implications of failing to prevent toxic chemical exposures not only for the health of children but also for the health of our economy."

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