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Cleaning up Md.'s air

On time for this year's Air Quality Awareness Week, Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health published new research confirming what we already suspected: Exposure to even small amounts of pollution can lead to lifelong respiratory disorders.

In a city with a childhood asthma rate of 16.4 percent — even higher than the rapidly growing national average — going outside for "fresh" air isn't the harmless behavior it used to be. Unfortunately, staying indoors has its own risks: Thanks to volatile organic compounds or VOCs, substances like formaldehyde and benzene are off-gassed into our homes at an alarming rate. Many everyday products from paint to flooring to nail polish remover release toxic chemicals into our air both through manufacturing and during household use.

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The Maryland Department of the Environment is in the process of approving tighter VOC limits for products sold in our state. If all goes well, product off-gassing in Maryland will be more than six tons lighter each day beginning January 2017. While industry will likely fight the stronger limits and the timeline, we should all support the Department of the Environment's decision to clean up our air, indoor and out.

Juliana Bilowich, Baltimore

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