Human exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals could cost the European Union some 157 billion euros a year in health care and lost productivity, according to a study published Thursday in a scientific journal.
The study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism linked endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) to IQ loss, autism, attention hyperactivity disorder, obesity, testicular cancer and male infertility.
Hundreds of EDCs are present in food products, textiles, hygiene products, toys, cosmetics and plastic bottles.
EDCs include diethylstilbestrol (DES), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, perfluoroalkylcompounds, solvents, phthalates, bisphenol A (BPA), organophosphate and organochlorine pesticides, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE).
Some of these substances are already banned in EU countries, such as in Scandinavia, but are used in others.
The study released in Brussels said the median cost in health care and lost productivity amounted to 157 billion euros a year, or 1.23 percent of EU Gross Domestic Product.
"EDC exposures in the EU are likely to contribute substantially to a wide array of disease and dysfunction across the life course with costs in the hundreds of billions per year," the study said.
"These estimates represent only those EDCs with the highest probability of causation," it said.
Richard Sharpe, who leads male reproductive health research at the University of Edinburgh, sounded a note of caution about the study.
"Most of the content of these publications is interpretation and informed speculation, and none of us should lose sight of this," he wrote in response to the study's publication.
The authors of the study said their aim was to deliver an estimate on the health and economic benefits of regulating EDCs as the European Commission, the executive of the 28-country EU, reviews legislation.
But this new regulatory framework -- which could lead to a ban on a wide range of pesticides, food packaging or ingredients for cosmetics -- has been postponed until 2016.
Officials in Brussels say the scientific and economic complexity of the subject justfies the delay but critics accuse the commission of being too close to the chemical industry.