Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News
July 26, 2010

Lansing — Michigan could save billions annually by protecting children from exposure to environmental hazards, according to a study released today.

The report released by an Ann Arbor-based coalition of health and environmental groups examined direct and indirect costs of four childhood diseases linked to environmental toxicants: lead poisoning, asthma, pediatric cancer and neurodevelopmental disorders.

The study found treating those disorders costs Michigan an average of $5.85 billion each year. If all diseases with an environmental link were included, the number would be higher.

The report was released by the Michigan Network for Children’s Environmental Health, a coalition of health and environmental organizations, and the Ecology Center, a nonprofit environmental organization. This is the first-ever study of the cost of environmentally related pediatric diseases for Michigan, according to the Ann Arbor-based groups.

“A substantial amount of solid evidence shows that children are being harmed by environmental exposures to toxic chemicals,” Dr. Ted Schettler, a member of the Network, said in a press release. “This report demonstrates that there is a cost not only to children and their families, but also to the state from inaction. Increased State and Federal efforts to protect children are long overdue.”

Release of the study was timed to coincide with introduction of proposed environmental legislation in Washington, D.C., today. The U.S. House Energy & Commerce Committee will hold hearings Thursday on the “Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010,” which would overhaul the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act to provide stronger protections.