According to a recent study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) might contribute to reproductive health problems reported by hundreds of women, including endometriosis.
The study, “Female Reproductive Disorders, Diseases & Costs of Exposure to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals in the European Union,” estimates that reproductive health problems cost the European Union (EU) approximately 1.4 billion euros (or $1.5 billion U.S. dollars) a year in healthcare expenditures and lost earning potential.
The study is included in a host of economic analyses that found EDC exposure could be costing the EU more than 157 billion euros a year. Prior studies in the series also examined the costs of infertility and male reproductive dysfunctions, as well as birth defects, obesity, diabetes, learning disorders, and others.
To evaluate the economic burden of EDC exposure, a group of researchers created a panel of global EDC experts to adapt existing environmental health costs. Based on the existing literature, the group then assessed the probability of EDCs contributing to several medical conditions or dysfunctions.
Endometriosis and uterine fibroids were included in the analysis because there is comprehensive data on their incidence and there was a previous established association with EDC exposure.
The development of uterine fibroids and endometriosis has been linked to pesticides, cosmetics, toys, and even food containers or in products found to contain DDE – a byproduct of the pesticide DDT that has been linked to increased risks of developing uterine fibroids – or phthalates – often found in plastic-derived products and cosmetics and that have also been linked to higher risks of endometriosis.
DDT, DDE and phthalates are examples of EDCs, which are damaging to our health by mimicking, blocking, or interfering in any way with the body’s natural hormones, a signaling system used by our bodies to determine how cells grow and develop.
The authors analyzed rates of uterine fibroids – benign tumors in the uterus that can contribute to health problems, including infertility – and of potentially painful endometriosis – a disease where the tissue that lines the uterus develops elsewhere in the body. The team also estimated that 145,000 cases of endometriosis, as well as 56,700 cases of uterine fibrosis in the EU, could be attributed to EDC exposure.
“Although these two gynecological conditions affect millions of women worldwide, we recognize that this analysis only reflects the tip of the iceberg,” Leonardo Trasande, M.D., MPP, associate professor of pediatrics, environmental medicine and population health at NYU Langone Medical Center, explained in a press release.
“A growing body of evidence suggests EDC exposure is linked to a broader range of female reproductive problems, including polycystic ovary syndrome, infertility, and pregnancy complications. These disorders also place a significant cost burden on women, their families, and society as a whole,” he said.
The economic assessment included direct costs of hospital visits, physician services, and others, as well as indirect costs associated with work productivity.
“The data shows that protecting women from exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals could substantially reduce rates of disease and lower healthcare and other social costs of these conditions,” Trasande added.