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$76B in Pediatric Healthcare Costs Linked to Environmental Factors

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, May 4, 2011

Diseases in children caused by environmental contaminants – many of them preventable – cost an estimated $76.6 billion in 2008, according to a report in today's edition of the journal Health Affairs.

For example, there's the cost of care for children with reduced cognitive abilities due to preventable childhood lead exposure and environmentally caused attention deficit hyperactivity disorder due to toxic chemicals.

There's asthma exacerbated by particulate-matter air pollutants, childhood obesity and its co-morbidities due to endocrine disrupting chemicals found in certain foods, and health consequences of mercury from contaminants in fish, the authors write.

"Federal policy action to limit children's exposure to known chemical hazards has also been extremely limited," wrote Leonardo Trasande, associate professor and assistant attending physician at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Yinghua Liu, associate scientist at the National Children's Study New York-Northern New Jersey Center, both in New York.

"Funding for lead-hazard control programs did not meet (necessary levels) for eliminating childhood lead poisoning by 201. Regulations intended to undermine restrictions on mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants set by the Clean Air Act were overturned by a federal circuit court ruling in 2008."

In a statement, Trasande said that with environmental contaminants "left unchecked, these preventable environmental factors will continue to harm the health of our children and push up healthcare costs. 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."

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