The association of respiratory problems in a community sample with self- reported chemical intolerance

C. M. Baldwin, I. R. Bell, M. K. O'Rourke, M. D. Lebowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


This epidemiological study evaluated respiratory histories in those individuals reporting chemical intolerance (CI) in a community population sample. The subsample of 181 completed standard Respiratory Health Questionnaires. CI was determined from self-ratings of feeling 'moderately' to 'severly' ill from exposure to at least three of five common chemicals (paint, pesticides, car exhaust, new carpet, and perfume); the prevalence rate was 22.7%. The comparison group (CN) (31.5% of the sample) were selected from their reports of 'never' feeling ill from the same chemicals. The prevalence rate of CI in females was over twice that in males (28% vs 12.9%), a significant difference. There were no significant differences in smoking, age, or education between CI and CN. Prevalence rates for symptoms and Relative Risk Ratios (RR) indicated that the CI were significantly more likely to report chronic cough, phlegm, wheeze, chest tightness, exertional dyspnea, acute respiratory illnesses, hay fever, child respiratory trouble, and physician confirmed asthma. Several of these respiratory symptoms were significantly, though differentially, related to 'current' asthma and hay fever reports. Results suggest a potential vulnerability to and greater interference from respiratory illness for the CI, which have implications for women's health and quality of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)547-552
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1997


  • Chemical intolerance
  • Epidemiology
  • Quality of life
  • Relative risk ratio
  • Respiratory health
  • Women's health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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