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Preventable Childhood Illness Costs State Over $1 Billion Annually
The Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow
Monday, September 15, 2003

(Boston, MA) The Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow and Tufts University's Global Development and Environment Institute today released a new report that estimates the incidence and cost of childhood illnesses caused by toxic pollution in Massachusetts.

Although there are many inter-related factors that lead to childhood illness, a growing body of scientific evidence shows that certain toxic chemicals can cause a range of illnesses and disabilities including cancer, asthma, lead damage, and learning disabilities.

Using expert estimates of the portion of these illnesses in Massachusetts that may be caused by toxic chemicals and pollution, the report finds that the costs of medical treatment, special education needs and lost income attributable to environmental exposures ranges from over $1 billion to $1.6 billion every year.

"Childhood illnesses and disabilities caused by environmental factors impose staggering costs on society," said report co-author Frank Ackerman, PhD, Director of Research and Policy at the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University. "Since these environmental factors are under human control, the resulting illnesses can and should be prevented."

The report, entitled "Costs of Preventable Childhood Illness: The Price We Pay for Pollution," analyzed a variety of costs of illness, including medical, prescription drug, special education and equipment costs, school and work days missed, as well as lost wages. These costs are borne by individual families, by health care and education systems, and by taxpayers. The direct costs of medical care and special education range from $54 million to $327 million dollars a year in Massachusetts.

The report is available on the web at http://ase.tufts.edu/gdae/publications/working_papers/03-09Childhood_Illness.PDF

"The health care system in Massachusetts faces serious financial challenges, with many institutions being forced to restrict care or even close their doors, " said Harold Cox, Chief Health Officer for the City of Cambridge. "Helping to alleviate these burdens by preventing harm to our children's health from toxic hazards should become a top priority."

"Over the course of my son's illness, his treatment cost literally millions of dollars," said Cynthia Bailey, whose son was diagnosed with brain cancer several years before his death. "Polluting industries often talk about their costs - but the cost to families like mine is off the charts."

"My daughter's asthma puts a real strain on my family," said Bridget Hickson, a concerned mother from Dorchester. "It seems like many families in my neighborhood are in the same boat."

In response to concerns about the health impacts of toxic chemicals, Representative Jay Kaufman (D-Lexington) and Senator Steven Tolman (D-Brighton) have filed legislation entitled "An Act for a Healthy Massachusetts: Safer Alternatives to Toxic Chemicals (H-2275/S-1168)." The bill, which is scheduled for a public hearing before the Joint Committee on Natural Resources of the Massachusetts state legislature on Thursday, September 18, would mandate a careful process to evaluate alternatives and replace toxic chemicals with safer alternatives where feasible.

"Our children cannot defend themselves from these toxic assaults on their health," said Senator Steven Tolman. "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."

"State policy needs to encourage sound environmental practices and facilitate the transition away from dangerous chemicals," said Representative Jay Kaufman. "Avoiding the containment, management, reporting, and clean-up costs associated with toxic chemicals is good business. It's also good for the state's economy as much as our environment."

Contact: Cindy Luppi 617/338-8131

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