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Daily exposure to low-levels of Chemicals in everyday Objects cost Billions in Health Care and Disability in United States

Exposure to chemicals in pesticides, toys, makeup, food packaging and detergents costs the U.S. more than $340 billion annually due to health care costs and lost wages

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A worker uses a rope to move through a pile of empty plastic bottles at a recycling workshop in Mumbai, June 5, 2014. Plastic bottles are one of the everyday items that contain endocrine-disruptors.

Washington, October 19, 2016: Daily exposure to low-levels of chemicals found in everyday objects costs the United States billions of dollars in health care and disability. That is the conclusion of a new study on the effects of so-called endocrine-disruptors.

These small amounts of harmful chemicals are found in items such as plastic water bottles, metal food cans, toys, cosmetics and flame-retardants.

The new study conducted by researchers at New York University, published online in the journal The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, reports annual health-care costs associated with exposure to these chemicals is more than $340 billion. That is 2.3 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

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Experts say the endocrine-disrupting chemicals disrupt hormones in the body, and their accumulation can result in neurological and behavioural disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism in children, infertility, birth defects, and some cancers.

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E-Ds, as they are known, can also disrupt how the body handles calories, leading to obesity and diabetes, according to Leonardo Trasande, a professor of environmental medicine at NYU School of Medicine.

Trasande co-authored the study projecting the health-care costs of E-Ds by using a computer model to make the economic calculations. He and his colleagues used data from the results of urine and blood samples of participants in a large study that looked for the presence of E-Ds.

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Trasande says the $340 billion figure is probably conservative because researchers only calculated the cost of 5 percent of known endocrine-disrupters.

“And we only added up costs that were published in peer-reviewed literature documenting the effects of these diseases on health care and other related costs,” he said. “Often we were not able to include some of the emotional welfare loss that’s typically associated with these diseases like human suffering, which has a value to society.”

But there is some good news. Trasande says there are a number of things people can do to limit their exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

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“Families can eat organic. They can avoid the use of pesticides in their homes to prevent unwanted creatures. They can avoid microwaving plastic, limit the use of aluminum canned food. They can avoid dishwashing plastic; plastic water bottles with the numbers 3, 6 and 7.”

The authors got the idea for the study from a similar one conducted in Europe.

Trasande says the health-care costs of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in Europe are less because of stronger regulations of the chemicals, something he says is needed in the United States. (VOA)

Next Story

Reinvent House Painting Using Christmas Trees

Fresh trees and older, abandoned Christmas trees can both be used, according to the researchers.

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The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree is lit up during a ceremony on the West Front of the Capitol in Washington, Dec. 6, 2016. VOA

The use of a Christmas tree could soon go beyond the festive period as researchers have found that useful products such as paint and food sweeteners can be made from the chemicals extracted from pine needles used in the tree.

“The tree that decorated your house over the festive period could be turned into paint to decorate your house once again,” said researcher Cynthia Kartey from the University of Sheffield in Britain.

Christmas trees have hundreds of thousands of pine needles which take a long time to decompose compared to other tree leaves. When they rot, they emit huge quantities of greenhouse gases which then contribute to the carbon footprint.

CHristmas Tree
The process is sustainable and creates zero waste Pixabay

The major component (up to 85 per cent) of pine needles is a complex polymer known as lignocellulose. The complexity of this polymer makes using pine needles as a product for biomass energy unattractive and useless to most industrial processes.

“My research has been focused on the breakdown of this complex structure into simple, high-valued industrial chemical feedstocks such as sugars and phenolics, which are used in products like household cleaners and mouthwash,” said Cynthia.

The new research showed that with the aid of heat and solvents such as glycerol, which is cheap and environmentally friendly, the chemical structure of pine needles can be broken down into a liquid product (bio-oil) and a solid by-product (bio-char).

Christmas Tree
These chemicals are used in many industries. Pixabay

The bio-oil typically contains glucose, acetic acid and phenol. These chemicals are used in many industries — glucose in the production of sweeteners for food, acetic acid for making paint, adhesives and even vinegar.

The process is sustainable and creates zero waste as the solid by-product can be useful too in other industrial chemical processes, the University of Sheffield said in a statement on Thursday.

Also Read: Paint, Varnish Exposure may Increase Risk of Multiple Sclerosis

Fresh trees and older, abandoned Christmas trees can both be used, according to the researchers. (IANS)