Daily News Archive
July 13, 2005
Exposure To Environmental
Toxins Costs Billions In Healthcare
(Beyond Pesticides, July 13, 2005) Environmental toxins
cost the state of Washington billions of dollars in health care costs
every year, according to new findings released in an interview by The
Seattle Post-Intelligencer with Kate Davies, Ph.D, professor
of Environment and Community at Antioch University Seattle's Center
for Creative Change. The Antioch University study shows that environmental
contaminants cause $1.6 to $2.2 billion in direct and indirect costs
in Washington State for childhood conditions such as asthma, cancer,
lead exposure, birth defects and neurobehavioral disorders. Adult conditions,
including asthma, heart disease, and cancer, cause $2.8 billion to $3.5
According to Dr.
Davies, the environmental health costs associated with children's conditions
is roughly .7 percent of the state gross national product, while environmental
health costs for adults equates to 1 percent of the local annual GNP.
Funding programs that reduce health-care costs associated with environmental
toxins means the state GNP would increase nearly 2 percent.
The study will be
released today to coincide with public hearings about "persistent
bioaccumulative toxic substances," or PBTs. Dr. Davies hopes the
numbers will catch the attention of state legislators and Department
of Ecology officials attending the hearings who will be writing a draft
rule on PBTs.
"It is important
for environmentalists to use economic arguments to control toxic chemicals,"
notes Dr. Davies. "Of course, monetary valuations of diseases and
disabilities are only part of the picture. They do not take account
of people's suffering or the emotional costs to families and friends.
"But whether we like it or not, legislators are heavily influenced
by economic arguments. It is important for environmentalists to speak
"This is exactly the sort of evidence we need to present to legislators
as they develop new regulations for environmental toxins," said
Elise Miller, director of the Institute for Children's Environmental
Health based in Freeland.
Dr. Davies' new study is based on an "environmentally attributable
fraction" model that estimates proportions of each disease or disability
that can conservatively be linked to exposure to environmental toxins.
This new research is part of a national trend to track health-care costs
related to environmental factors. A 2002
study by scientists at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York
found that Americans pay more than $54 billion annually for pediatric
diseases linked to environmental toxins, including lead poisoning, asthma,
childhood cancer, and developmental disabilities. The total, 2.8 percent
of all U.S. healthcare costs, is more than Americans spend on military
research, veterans’ benefits and health care costs of strokes.