Treating Kids for Environmental Ills Costs U.S. $76B a Year

Left unchecked, pollution, chemicals, other toxins will continue to push health costs skyward, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, May 4 (HealthDay News) -- Children's health problems caused by air pollution, exposure to toxic chemicals and other environmental pollutants cost the United States $76.6 billion in 2008, a new study finds.

That was 3.5 percent of the nation's total health-care costs that year, compared with 2.8 percent in 1997, said researchers from the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine and colleagues.

They examined the cost of childhood cancer and chronic conditions such as asthma, autism, attention deficit disorder, and intellectual disability linked at least in part to toxins and contaminants in the water, air, soil and food, as well as in homes and neighborhoods.

The costs included medical care and indirect costs such as lost work productivity among parents caring for sick children.

Among the main findings:

  • Childhood cancer cost $95 million.
  • Lead poisoning cost $50.9 billion.
  • Autism cost $7.9 billion.
  • Intellectual disability cost $5.4 billion.
  • Exposure to mercury (methyl mercury) cost $5.1 billion.
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder cost $5 billion.
  • Asthma cost $2.2 billion.

The study, funded by The Kresge Foundation, appears in the May issue of the journal Health Affairs.

"Left unchecked, these preventable environmental factors will continue to harm the health of our children and push up health-care costs," study author Leonardo Trasande, of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, said in a journal news release.

"By updating environmental regulations and laws aimed at protecting the public's health, we can reduce the toll taken by such factors on children's health and the economy," Trasande said.

More information

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency outlines how to protect children from environmental risks.

Robert Preidt SOURCE: Health Affairs, news release, May 4, 2011

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