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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Harvard and EHESP: Chemical Exposure Costs Globally Higher Than Thought

Costs associated with environmental chemical exposures worldwide may exceed 10 percent of the global gross domestic product, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researcher and Ecole des hautes études en santé publique (EHESP) School of Public Health in France. The authors said current calculations substantially underestimate the economic costs associated with preventable environmental risk factors.

The study was published December 4 in the journal Environmental Health.

“We’re talking about something that, in principle, is preventable,” said co-author Dr. Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a December 5 Environmental Health News article. “We ought to do a whole lot more for prevention — the gains could be huge.”

The researchers looked at exposures to contaminants such as air pollution, endocrine disrupting chemicals, lead, mercury, pesticides, and flame retardants and calculated how much they end up costing societies due to illnesses, reduced brain function, health care bills, and lost wages and productivity for employers. Gross domestic product is a measure of a country’s total economy, and includes the value of all goods and services produced. In 2016, the global GDP was $75 trillion, according to the World Bank.

“Our findings suggest that a revised paradigm is required for evaluating and prioritizing the environmental contribution to human illness and the associated costs,” Dr. Grandjean and co-author Dr. Martine Bellanger, wrote.

Dr. Grandjean said he hopes the new study gets into the hands of policymakers and health care providers and that it helps refocus our priorities in protecting people’s health.

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