Want to put a price tag on the havoc that preventable environmental hazards such as air pollution, pesticides, and common chemicals wreak on our children’s health? The Public Health Institute’s California Environmental Health Tracking Program has it figured out for young citizens of California: $254 million every year! The report from the Public Health Institute identified four common illnesses linked to preventable environmental hazards (asthma, cancer, neurobehavioral illnesses, and lead exposure-related illnesses) and found some pretty staggering statistics. Asthma alone, for example, costs the state and families over $208 million dollars a year! Here’s the kicker: the report identifies that the environment is accountable for 30% of the childhood asthma burden, as well as 15% of that of childhood cancer, 10% of neurobehavioral illnesses, and 100% of lead exposure.
Because the identified illnesses have long-term associated costs, the state and families could save $10-13 billion dollars over the lifetime of children born in one year in California. The associated costs were calculated from direct costs, such as medical care, and indirect costs, such as lost potential earnings over the course of a child’s life. Just to give you an idea of the scope of those yearly costs, they’re equivalent to what was appropriated in the California budget for funding statewide local teacher training or statewide career tech ed programs and double the size of funding for child nutrition programs. In order to reduce or eliminate these environmental hazards, several suggested measures were listed in the report, including preventing pesticide exposure from agricultural use, warning about BPA, setting safe drinking water standards for certain chemicals, replacing commonly used and hormone-disrupting chemicals in products including cosmetics and toys, and educating the public on preventable environmental hazards, particularly lead exposure.