Ocean City, MD — On Friday evening, Senator Clarence Lam (D-12) introduced the Community Healthy Air Act (CHAA) which will require the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to study the impacts of air emissions from industrial chicken houses and assess any public health impacts. Nearly 70 groups, including Food & Water Watch, NAACP Maryland, Maryland Environmental Health Network, and Concerned Citizens Against Industrial CAFOs support the bill in order to ensure family farmers, rural residents and surrounding community members on Maryland’s Eastern Shore are adequately protected from the dangers of industrial agriculture.
CHAA is the comprehensive legislation that Maryland needs. Earlier this month, the MDE announced plans for a “Lower Eastern Shore Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Project.” This project will not lead to the public health answers we need. Eastern Shore residents demand MDE monitor how much air pollution is coming from the hundreds of industrial poultry facilities in Maryland, and nothing less.
“As a doctor, public health professional, and elected official I believe it is vitally important to listen to Marylanders when they believe their health is being negatively affected by neighboring industries,” said Senator Clarence Lam (D-12). “The communities on the Eastern Shore who brought their concerns to me deserve to have a real, transparent, sample monitoring program that will provide the information needed to protect the public’s health.”
The MDE air quality monitoring plan falls significantly short of what the CHAA would achieve and would fail to provide a transparent and adequate study of Maryland’s air with an extensive analysis of the impacts on public health and with recommendations to improve air quality in the state.
Thousands of these industrial-sized houses on Maryland’s Eastern Shore emit harmful air pollutants, such as ammonia, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, and endotoxins. The effect this pollution has on the health of neighboring communities or nearby waters, including the Chesapeake Bay, remains unknown due to a lack of monitoring data.
“We have worked tirelessly for the past several years with Eastern Shore communities to get more data about the health impacts of industrial poultry houses on the Eastern Shore and we do not intend to let up this fight. CHAA is the commonsense air study that Marylanders deserve, and anything less comprehensive is not enough,” said Michele Merkel, Co-Director Food & Water Justice, Food & Water Watch. “Senator Lam is the leader for public health that Maryland needs, and we are committed to working with him to make sure that rural residents aren’t left unprotected.”
“It’s no secret that industrial farming operations fail to accurately assess the human costs of their practices. This is an unacceptable status quo that has turned neighboring communities into sacrifice zones. Maryland needs local and accurate air monitoring to quantify exposure to pollution related to these industrial poultry operations,” said Tamara Toles O’Laughlin, Executive Director of Maryland Environmental Health Network. “It would be an injustice to Marylanders and the environment to fail to do so.”
“When I moved to the eastern shore of Maryland, besides the beauty of the region, I noted the alarming number of children with asthma or respiratory diseases. While my family has no history of these diseases, my youngest daughter was prescribed an inhaler almost two years ago, and has landed in the emergency room multiple times this year,” said Monica Brooks, Co-founder of Concerned Citizens Against Industrial CAFOs. “This is not an isolated incident, as 1 in 4 middle school children in Wicomico County has been diagnosed with asthma. I believe that something in the air is causing these problems and I deserve to know for sure. That’s why we need to pass the Community Healthy Air Act.”
“Communities that are predominantly low- income and communities of color have been targeted by industrial poultry companies,” said Brooke Harper, Maryland State Conference of the NAACP. “We are calling on government officials to pass the Community Healthy Air Act to prove that the health of all communities comes before corporate agriculture. This is a Maryland issue and all of us should be working to fight injustices happening on the Eastern Shore All we are asking for is an air study so that people aren’t left in the dark about what is in the air they breathe.”
For more information about the bill, read the fact sheet here.
Advocates are tweeting about the bill using #healthyairstudy