A team of experts including scientists from Aberdeen University found environmental compounds, known as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), could be costing the EU more than £1 billion a year in health care costs and lost earnings potential thanks to their impact on reproductive health.
EDCs have been linked to to conditions such as uterine fibroids – benign growths on the uterus that can cause infertility – and endometriosis, where the tissue that normally lines the uterus develops elsewhere in the body.
The European Commission is considering tougher restrictions on EDCs and the World Health Organisation has previously warned these chemicals could cause cancer and other diseases.
Experts estimated 145,000 cases of endometriosis and 56,700 cases of uterine fibroids in Europe could be attributed to exposure to these environmental chemicals.
Professor Paul Fowler, director of the Institute of Medical Sciences at Aberdeen University, who is one of the authors, said: “This study highlights that exposure to environmental ‘everyday’ chemicals may contribute substantially to the potential health costs and lost working hours to the EU resulting from two of the most common reproductive women’s diseases.
“Of particular concern are endocrine disrupting compounds – chemicals that can disturb the body’s hormone systems.”
The study, published today in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, is part of a series that found endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure was linked to male reproductive dysfunctions, obesity, diabetes and learning disorders.
Study leader Dr Leonardo Trasande, of New York University, called for measures to reduce the exposure to these chemicals.
He said: “Although these two gynaecological conditions affect millions of women worldwide, we recognise that this analysis only reflects the tip of the iceberg.
“These disorders also place a significant cost burden on women, their families and society as a whole.”