A new study finds that children’s health problems caused by environmental pollutants like air pollution and exposure to other environmental pollutants cost the United States $76.6 billion in 2008.
That figure was 3.5 percent of the U.S.’s health care costs for 2008, researchers from the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine and colleagues found, and that figure increased from 2.8 percent in 1997.
They examined chronic illnesses, conditions, and disabilities linked with pollutants like toxins and contaminants in the soil, air, water as well as neighborhoods and homes.
The costs that were calculated included medical bills but also indirect costs like lower work productivity for parents who have to care for sick children.
Here are some of 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, and asthma cost $2.2 billion.
Authors of the study are calling for tighter air quality standards to help regulate mercury emissions and also for further reductions in the usage of lead paint, both of which can protect children from suffering from setbacks in mental and physical development. They are also calling for chemicals and substances already in use to be tested to see if they pose a risk to human health.
Study author Leonardo Trasande, MD, Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine and Pediatrics at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, said “Left unchecked, these preventable environmental factors will continue to harm the health of our children and push up health-care costs”.
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