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Study finds children exposed to mercury in the United States through the consumption of contaminated seafood costs the U.S. $5.1 billion a year

Poor childhood health caused by environmental factors, such as air pollution and exposure to toxic chemicals, cost the United States $76.6 billion in 2008, according to authors of a new study in the May issue of Health Affairs. This price tag represents a dramatic increase in recent years, rising from 2.8 percent of total health care costs in 1997 to 3.5 percent in 2008.The new study by Leonardo Trasande of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine focused on the cost of lead poisoning, childhood cancer and chronic conditions, including asthma, intellectual disability, autism and attention deficit disorder-conditions that are linked to environmental toxins and pollutants in the air, food, water, and soil, as well as in homes and neighborhoods.

“Left unchecked, these preventable environmental factors will continue to harm the health of our children and push up health care costs,” Trasande said. “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.”

Key findings from the study:

– Lead poisoning cost $50.9 billion
– Autism cost $7.9 billion
– Intellectual disability cost $5.4 billion
– Exposure to mercury (methyl mercury) cost $5.1 billion
– Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder cost $5.0 billion
– Asthma cost $2.2 billion
– Childhood cancer cost $95.0 million

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