|May 04, 2011
12:01 AM EST
Environmental Illness In Children Contributes $76.6 Billion To Annual Health Care Costs, Says New Study
Toxic chemicals, air pollution, unhealthy food among factors that have contributed to costly and widespread chronic illness, according to a new issue of Health Affairs
Bethesda, MD-- Poor childhood health caused by environmental factors, such as air pollution and exposure to toxic chemicals, costs the United States $76.6 billion in 2008, according to authors of a new study in the May issue of Health Affairs. This price tag represents a dramatic increase in recent years, rising from 2.8 percent of total health care costs in 1997 to 3.5 percent in 2008.
The new study by Leonardo Trasande of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine focused on the cost of lead poisoning, childhood cancer and chronic conditions, including asthma, intellectual disability, autism and attention deficit disorder--conditions that are linked to environmental toxins and pollutants in the air, food, water, and soil, as well as in homes and neighborhoods.
"Left unchecked, these preventable environmental factors will continue to harm the health of our children and push up health care costs," Trasande said. "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."
Researchers used recent data to estimate the number of environmentally induced conditions in children and then calculated the annual cost for direct medical care and indirect costs, such as lost productivity resulting from parents' caring for sick children. They found that the aggregate cost of environmental illness in children was $76.6 billion in 2008 dollars.
The study provides an update to an analysis of 1997 data that documented $54.9 billion in annual costs of environmentally contributable childhood diseases in the United States. In comparing the two studies, researchers found that diminished exposure to lead and reductions in costs for asthma care were offset by diseases newly identified as environmentally induced, including attention deficit disorder, and the added burden of mercury exposure. This toxic metal, from contaminated fish and coal-fired power plants, can harm the developing brain and is associated with intellectual disability.
Key findings from the study:
The authors call for further reductions in lead-based paint
hazards to protect children from lead poisoning, which can severely
affect mental and physical development, and tighter air quality
standards to curb mercury emissions, as well as reduce particulates
that can trigger asthma. They also call for testing of new chemicals
and substances already in use to ensure they pose no risk to
Several of the papers explore environmental health challenges for children, including the following:
Children's vulnerability to toxic chemicals
Air pollution and its impact on health and academic achievement
Why environmental factors lead to increased disease rates
|About Health Affairs|
Health Affairs, published by Project HOPE, is the leading journal of health policy. The peer-reviewed journal appears each month in print, with additional Web First papers published weekly at www.healthaffairs.org. You can also find the journal on Facebook and Twitter and download Narrative Matters on iTunes. Address inquiries to Sue Ducat at (301) 841-9962 or firstname.lastname@example.org