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Insights A new study by a University of Maine economist estimates the cost of preventable, environmentally related childhood illnesses in Maine

Insights - May/June 2009Preventable childhood illness

Anew study by a University of Maine economist estimates the cost of preventable, environmentally related childhood illnesses in Maine -including lead poisoning, asthma, childhood cancer, and neurobehavioral disorders – totals $380.9 million annually.

Environmental economist Mary Davis says her study presents a conservative assessment of the damaging effects of childhood diseases and the costs of caring for these children. A report on her study, “An Economic Cost Assessment of Environmentally Related Childhood Diseases in Maine,” also estimates the potential reduction in lifetime income and educational opportunity for children permanently afflicted by childhood diseases.

“It is important to note that the economic costs outlined in this report represent preventable childhood illnesses, and, as such, could be fully avoided if environmental exposures in children were eliminated,” Davis writes in her report.

Davis, an adjunct faculty member in the UMaine School of Economics, says she conducted her research independently because of her interest in children’s health issues and because of the plethora of environmental initiatives expected to surface in the Maine legislature as a result of LD 2048, An Act To Protect Children’s Health and the Environment from Toxic Chemicals in Toys and Children’s Products, which passed last year. The bill requires Maine to adopt a list of priority chemicals of high concern, forces manufacturers to disclose the toxic chemicals they add to products, and authorizes the state to require safer alternatives.

The report is “directly relevant to the state’s investment in the process that the new law has set into motion,” Davis says.


May/June 2009

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