Health Advocates Call for Stronger Protections from Environmental Threats for Children

Media Contacts
Jenny Levin

A new Environmental Health Progress Report identifies opportunities to reduce children’s health harms from pollution and toxics in Maryland

Maryland Environmental Health Network

(Annapolis, MD) – The Maryland Environmental Health Network (MDEHN) released a report today documenting progress and challenges in protecting children from environmental health threats in Maryland. The 2013 Maryland Children’s Environmental Health Report details how contaminants in a community’s environment – in water, land, air, and homes – can harm children – and offers policy-makers strategies for more protective action.

“This report focuses on the many ways children are uniquely vulnerable to pesticides and toxic chemical exposures and to pollution in air and water,” said Rebecca Ruggles, Director of MDEHN. “Our goal is to call attention to policy-making opportunities for better protection, and offer over-arching approaches for more effective legislation and policy.”

The report outlines the environmental health concerns associated with pesticides, toxic chemicals, air and water pollution, hydraulic fracturing for natural gas extraction (‘fracking’) and climate change. Emerging evidence shows that the national epidemics of obesity and diabetes – as well as the rising prevalence of allergic diseases and autism – are due at least in part to chemical exposures during the most sensitive and vulnerable windows of childhood development.  New science demonstrates that even very low levels of exposure to some chemicals can be quite harmful.

Rising rates of asthma, cancer, obesity, autism, ADHD, and learning disabilities are increasingly linked to environmental exposures. School systems, employers, and health insurers are paying for the consequences.  While MDEHN’s report explains the wide range of health problems caused by environmental pollutants, it also emphasizes government policies that can better protect children and reduce environmental health threats.

Delegate James Hubbard, who chairs the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators, said, “As a grandfather and a long time representative of Prince George’s County’s District 23A, I am very proud of the children’s health protections I and my colleagues have passed over the years,” Delegate James W. Hubbard (D-MD 23A) said. “I am pleased to see the release of this report, which is a thorough discussion of the progress made and the challenges ahead when it comes to children’s environmental health.”


The 2013 Maryland Children’s Environmental Health Progress Report has been endorsed by 13 health and child advocacy organizations; and was compiled by tapping Maryland’s own wealth of scientific and public health expertise. 


The report offers key strategies that Maryland can deploy to address the threats outlined above, and in some cases, one strategy can address multiple threats.


• Increase the available data for assessing child environmental health priorities. Examples include annual reporting of pesticide applications, biomonitoring studies to identify toxic substances being carried in our bodies, and evaluation of cancer hotspots.


• Apply a cumulative impact analysis to communities that are disproportionately affected by pollution. Such approaches are relevant in the siting of new industries and highways, the enforcement or revision of permits, and the setting of priorities for toxic waste clean-ups.


• Identify chemicals of greatest concern. Empower state agencies to phase out the use of chemicals deemed most dangerous to children.


• Give greater weight to the health implications of major initiatives, incorporating present and future health costs andsavings into the economic analysis. Recognize and quantify the health benefits of renewable energy sources, and health harms from fossil fuel sources.


• Take a comprehensive view of toxics in our state, rather than addressing sources and substances individually. Use administrative as well as legislative action to pursue child protection from environmental harms.




The Maryland Environmental Health Network (MDEHN) seeks to improve the health of Marylanders by promoting effective environmental laws and institutional policies, increasing awareness of the need for greater government protection, and advancing environmental health equity throughout Maryland. For more information or to view the 2012 Maryland Children’s Environmental Health Progress Report visit