Endocrine-disrupting chemicals in plastics increase U.S. health care costs by 9 billion

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals in plastics increase U.S. health care costs by $249 billion

January 12, 2024

2 min read


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Key points:

  • In 2018, health care costs from exposure to PBDEs were estimated at $159 billion.
  • Healthcare costs can be reduced by reducing the production and consumption of chemicals.

Exposure to plastics containing endocrine-disrupting chemicals was estimated to increase U.S. health care costs by $249 billion in 2018, research data shows.

Posted in Journal of the Endocrine SocietyResearchers reviewed existing literature to identify the portion of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that contribute to plastic-related illness and disability. More than 90 plastic-related ingredients include bisphenol A, bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, butyl and benzyl phthalate, polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE)-47 and PFAS %. In 2018, the disease burden from plastics totaled $249 billion, with the majority of the burden coming from PBDE exposure.

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Endocrine-disrupting chemicals in plastics increase health care costs by the equivalent of approximately 1.22% of U.S. gross domestic product Image source: Adobe Stock

“These costs are equivalent to 1.22% of gross domestic product,” Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP, Director of the Environmental Hazard Investigation Center at NYU Grossman School of Medicine told Healio. “Plastic causes illnesses across the lifespan, from premature birth to obesity, heart disease and cancer.”

Trasande and colleagues define a product consisting of a polymeric substance, synthetic or semi-synthetic, as a plastic. A list of uses and the proportion of total chemical production allocated to each use was compiled from industry reports, regulatory agency reports and peer-reviewed publications. Applications eligible for plastics-related chemical uses include monomers, plastic additives, processing aids and plastic surface treatments. The plastic-related fraction was determined from each source where chemical use was proportionally determined. Disease burden and cost estimates were calculated by multiplying the base plastic-related fraction by the base case estimate from the original manuscript.

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Leonard Trasande

For most EDCs, plastics account for the majority of disease burden and costs, with bisphenol A accounting for 97.5%, di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate 98.5%, and butylbenzyl phthalate accounting for 97.5%. 100%, PFOA 93%, dibutyl phthalate 85% and polybrominated diphenyl ethers 98.2%. PFOS is associated with the lowest percentage of plastics at 48%.

The total disease burden caused by plastics in 2018 was estimated at $249 billion. PBDEs account for the highest costs, estimated at $159 billion, followed by phthalates at $66.7 billion and PFAS at $22.4 billion.

Trasande said the production and consumption of plastic needs to be reduced to reduce exposure to the chemicals included in the study. In the study’s conclusion, the authors noted that reducing chemical exposure could lead to billions of dollars in reduced health care costs in the United States alone.

“Our research raises awareness of the need to address the chemicals used in plastic materials as part of a global plastics treaty,” Trasande said. “Actions through the Global Plastics Pact and other policy initiatives will reduce these costs in proportion to actual reductions in chemical exposure.”

to know more information:

Leonard Trasande,Medical PhD, maximum power point, Contact us at [email protected].

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