Samuel Yamin of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, which put out the report along with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, said the report shows the cost of ignoring problems - countering arguments that cleaning up the environment is too expensive.
"I think most people would agree we have a moral imperative to protect children from environmental health hazards," Yamin said, "but this report demonstrates that it also makes good economic sense."
The estimate was based on national research on childhood asthma, cancer, lead poisoning, birth defects and neurobehavioral disorders. In some cases, the researchers took national cost estimates and refigured them for Minnesota based on the number of childhood diseases in the state. Researchers also counted only a fraction of childhood diseases, because some children would suffer them even in an ideal environment.
For example, the study estimated total annual costs of childhood asthma at $102 million but then predicted that only 30 percent of the asthma cases were directly related to environmental pollution. That reduced the cost to $30.5 million.
Lead poisoning alone costs the state $1.2 billion per year in lost productivity because of the neurological deficits it causes in children, according to the report.
The report credited the Legislature for acting to reduce mercury emissions from coal plants but also called for more regulation of chemical products, more financial assistance for low-income families with lead contamination and reductions in pesticide exposure.
Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, http://www.twincities.com