New research indicates that women may face a potential risk of several reproductive disorders from common endocrine-disrupting chemicals, as well as highlighting the large economic burden the chemicals cause.
In a study published this month in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, researchers from New York University School of Medicine found that exposure to controversial chemicals, like phthalates and diphenyldichlorethene (DDE), increase a woman’s likelihood of developing endometriosis and fibroids. The economic burden from those conditions could cost as much as $1.5 billion, according to the findings.
Researchers focused on DDE exposures among women of reproductive age in Europe and the association between DDE levels in the blood, as well as fibroid diagnosis. An expert panel evaluated the evidence for the probability that the chemicals caused female reproductive disorders.
Fibroids and endometriosis are two common conditions that affect an estimated 70% of women and are the leading causes of female infertility.
According to the study, nearly 57,000 cases of fibroids in women were attributable to DDE exposure. DDE is what happens when the insecticide DDT breaks down. DDT is considered toxic. It was banned in Europe in 1970 and the U.S. in 1972. DDE lingers in the environment and enters the body through food.
Researchers also found 145,000 women with phthalate-attributable endometriosis. Humans are mainly exposed to phthalates through eating and drinking from plastic containers that have phthalates.
Endocrine disrupting chemicals are used in many consumer products, including plastic food containers, the lining in canned food, cosmetics, and even in cash register receipts at supermarkets, gas stations and ATM machines.
Financial Side Effects of Fibroids and Endometriosis
The study also estimated the burden of the female reproductive disorders linked to the chemicals in Europe in 2010. The total combined economic and health care costs reached 163 million Euros attributed to fibroids and 1.25 billion Euros to endometriosis. The total cost in Euros would be equivalent to more than $1.5 billion in the U.S.
Researchers who published this study are also estimating the economic burden endocrine disrupting chemicals pose to the U.S. That study will be published this summer.
The estimated cost in this latest study was based on the cost of treating the conditions, including surgery. However, the estimates would be even greater if the cost of infertility and other health problems associated with fibroids and endometriosis caused by those conditions, including the increased risk of cancer and autoimmune conditions, were considered, researchers said.
Researchers emphasized this representation is only for chemicals for which there were sufficient epidemiological studies, and those with the highest probability of causation. The true burden could far exceed the original estimate if all endocrine disrupting chemicals were considered.
The European Union is considering criteria to set limits for exposure to endocrine disruptors.