Media Contacts
Joanna Guy

Recommendations Made to Reduce Maryland’s High Rates of Asthma

Maryland PIRG Foundation


BALTIMORE, MARYLAND- A new report, released today by Maryland PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) Foundation, found that exposure to chemicals in common consumer products can cause or aggravate childhood asthma. “An Unnecessary Burden: Indoor Chemical Exposure and Asthma,” highlighted risky chemicals like phthalates, bisphenol-A and formaldehyde, which can be found in everything from personal care products to home improvement products. The report emphasizes that Maryland needs to take greater action for the above reasons and more to improve safety in consumer products and reduce our exposure to dangerous substances.


“Marylanders with asthma need better tools to help them avoid hazardous exposures that can trigger or worsen asthma,” says Joanna Guy, Maryland PIRG Associate. “Our leaders should take immediate actions to address asthma-inducing chemicals in our homes, schools and workplaces.”


The chronic lung disease asthma is the most common disease affecting children in Maryland, and rates of asthma continue to rise. As of 2010, 16.4% of children in Maryland were reported to have suffered from asthma, compared to a national rate of 12.6%. Asthma is a major health and financial hardship on families, schools, and the healthcare system.


Key findings from the report include:


    • Exposure to toxic chemicals can cause and aggravate asthma. Some toxic chemicals – such as phthalates, bisphenol-A or PCBs– have been linked to asthma risk and may be contributing to the rising incidence of asthma. In addition, certain chemical exposures can also trigger asthma attacks or cause asthma symptoms like wheezing or coughing.


    • Flooring made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC plastic) emits phthalates. Children and adults in homes and workplaces containing high levels of phthalates are more likely to have been recently diagnosed with asthma or have asthma symptoms.


    • Many common items, such as canned food containers and store receipts, contain bisphenol-A, a chemical that mimics a hormone crucial for regulating proper growth and development. Infants exposed to bisphenol A in the womb or early in life are more likely to develop increased sensitivity to allergens or symptoms of asthma later in childhood.


    • Solvent-based paints, spray insulation, flooring adhesives and similar products can pollute indoor air with VOCs such as toluene, diisocyanates and benzene compounds. These chemicals can induce inflammatory reactions in lung cells and have been associated with increased risk of developing asthma.


    • Many food, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, cleaning and paint products contain glycol ethers. Children exposed to higher levels of these chemicals in indoor air are more likely to suffer from asthma and related allergic diseases.


    • A single piece of furniture containing high levels of formaldehyde-containing glue – often used in composite wood materials –  can contaminate the indoor air within a home at levels linked with respiratory symptoms and asthma diagnosis.


The report advocates chemical regulatory reform, which should improve public access to information on chemicals and hazards they may be exposed to so they can make healthy choices, require chemical manufacturer’s to prove the safety of their chemicals, and empower regulatory agencies to restrict chemicals known to be dangerous.


“This report points to the need for policy changes at the state and local level,” said Rebecca Ruggles, Director of the Maryland Environmental Health Network.  “Teaching consumers to avoid certain products and insuring asthma patients get good medical care is not enough.  We have high rates of asthma in Maryland and especially here in Baltimore City. We need to work to eliminate these environmental triggers, such as chemicals in consumer products, by setting more protective policies both at the state level and in school systems.”


“We hope the O’Malley Administration moves forward to protect Maryland families and publishes a list of chemicals of concern,” added Guy. “In addition, Maryland should look at restricting asthma-inducing chemicals where the federal government has clearly failed. We need to address this epidemic now.”




Maryland PIRG is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society. The organization is currently working with state lawmakers and a powerful coalition, connecting concerned citizens with their representatives, and reaching out to the media in the fight to make Maryland toxic-free.