endocrine disrupting chemicals

A recent study found in The Lancet journal compares the disease burden and costs related to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in the USA and Europe. The findings suggest that the US should restrict the usage of EDCs, and develop more accurate testing before their approval.


The Endocrine Society describes endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) as substances that change the homeostatic (body equilibrium) and hormonal system of organisms through developmental and environmental exposure, which can cause various health effects. Exposure to EDCs can have potential adverse effects such as infertility, intellectual disability, birth defects, and diabetes. Reports have documented evidence which supports that EDCs play a role in causing several dysfunctions and disorders. Thus for this study found in The Lancet journal, researchers aimed to quantify disease burdens and costs related to EDCs in the US and Europe to allow for comparison due to regulation differences.  Although there are screening programs put in place in effort to screen for EDCs in the US, there are flaws and ambiguities in the system, which may lead to unnecessary testing or not testing harmful substances, before approval. Thus, this analysis of costs and disease burdens related to EDC exposure can be an important tool for policymakers to make informed decisions regarding the usage of these substances.

For this analysis, the researchers used previously developed ranges for probabilities of causation, which were assembled to evaluate the burden of diseases and costs related to EDCs, in Europe. The analysis shows that EDC exposure is significantly higher for organophosphates pesticides in Europe and for polybrominate diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in the US. The results indicated that neurobehavioral dysfunction is the greatest burden due to exposure to EDCs in the US, with a greater number of cases with this deficit in comparison to Europe. It was found that 4400 cases of attention deficit disorder and 1500 cases of autism were associated with EDC exposure.  In addition, exposure to EDCs such as di-2-ethylhexylphthalate was attributed to a large number of obesity and diabetes cases in adults; and Phthalates and Bisphenol were associated with early cardiovascular deaths and childhood obesity, respectively.

Furthermore, to estimate the costs related to diseases due to EDC exposure, the study used a cost-of-illness approach, which included direct costs such as medical treatments, and indirect costs such as loss of output. These costs indicated that the disease costs associated with EDC exposure in the USA represent 2.33% of the 2010 US Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and 1.28% of GDP in Europe.

Thus this analysis is significant as it highlights a need to implement regulatory actions, which can limit exposure to EDCs, in order to increase health and economic benefits in the US. The US has not been stringent to cease the use of some of the harmful PBDEs, whereas Europe has restricted their usage since 2008. Therefore, there is a need for improved screening for EDCs and implementations of preventive methods in order to reduce economic costs related to EDC exposure, and to prevent various health issues in the US.


By: Sana Issa, HBSc

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