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Report: Preventable Illnesses Costly

Report: Preventable Illnesses CostlyA new Tufts study reports that environmental toxins are increasing the occurrences of many childhood illnesses, costing Massachusetts as much as $1.6 billion a year. Medford/Somerville, Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [10.09.03] Exposure to environmental toxins and pollution has been linked to a wide range of childhood illnesses - from asthma to brain tumors. A new report from Tufts suggests that these health conditions are both partially preventable and very costly - consuming as much as $1.6 billion a year in Massachusetts alone.

› Read Frank Ackerman's Report [here]

"The report, released during a press conference at the State House, put a price tag on childhood illnesses linked to preventable environmental exposures, including cancer, asthma, neurobehavioral disorders, lead poisoning and birth defects," reported the Daily News Transcript. "While the estimated cost of medical treatment, special education and lost wages was more than $1 billion, the direct costs of medical care for the disorders range between $54 million and $327 million."

Prepared by Tufts' Frank Ackerman - director of research and policy at the Global Development and Environmental Institute at Tufts - and research associate Rachel Massey, the report was commissioned by the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow - a statewide coalition of 100 health, environmental and labor groups.

According to the Tufts experts, many childhood illnesses could be prevented - at least in part - if the environmental toxins in Massachusetts were reduced.

"Ackerman said while childhood illnesses such as cancer are caused by multiple factors, there is a growing body of evidence linking exposure to environmental toxins and certain diseases," reported the Transcript. "He said lead poisoning was the only steadily declining health condition in the four studied and attributed the trend to the fact that lead was banned from paint and gasoline in the 1970s."

Occurrences of other illnesses, however, are on the rise.

"We looked at four conditions and three of four are growing at alarming rates," Ackerman told the newspaper, citing asthma and cancer as examples. "If you look at the cost of our children's health, we can't afford not to address toxic chemicals."

The rapid increases, he says, are most likely caused by environmental - not genetic - factors.

"Our genes haven't changed," he told the Transcript. "Something in the environment had to change in order to see a change that fast."

In response to the Tufts report, two Massachusetts legislators - Representative Jay Kaufman (D-Lexington) and Senator Steven Tolman (D-Brighton) - filed a new bill mandating the replacement of toxic chemicals with safer alternatives where feasible.

"Our children cannot defend themselves from these toxic assaults on their health," Tolman said in a press conference. "It is unconscionable to allow them to remain in harm's way when there are safe, practical and affordable alternatives to many of the toxic chemicals we're exposed to at home, in schools and at work."


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