Testing Air Quality and Tackling Lung Disease
On Wednesday, the Maryland state senate held a hearing late into the night where resilient and concerned community members waited to share their stories of living next to factory farms and advocate for a solution. The Community Healthy Air Act (CHAA), a bill that has long been ignored by many Maryland legislators, would require specific and robust air quality monitoring near the factory chicken farms on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, along with a comprehensive public health assessment. For years, community members have reported major problems with air quality and have asked local officials to take action. The counties where chickens are most concentrated have some of the highest rates of lung disease and cancer in the state, and a 2010 study determined that a shocking one in four middle-school children in Wicomico County suffer from asthma. Meanwhile, the concentration of CAFOs in the area continues to increase.
Just weeks ago, the Maryland Department of the Environment joined happily with the corporate poultry industry to announce an ambient air “study” in two undisclosed locations on the shore. The disingenuous plan, intended to thwart the CHAA, falls significantly short of what our legislation would achieve. Among other things, it is not intended to collect data that can be used to make much-needed public health assessments. Even a former chicken industry executive submitted testimony affirming that CHAA is a good framework to gather and interpret the data necessary to access the impact these facilities have on residents.
Back and Forth to the Capital
Eastern Shore community members impacted by these factory farms, and local advocacy groups including NAACP, Concerned Citizens Against Industrial CAFOs, Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, and Assateague Coastal Keeper traveled to Annapolis tirelessly this session to meet with legislators and testify before a key Senate committee, urging it to pass CHAA and protect their communities’ health.
The hearing happened to fall on the ten year anniversary of the landmark documentary Food Inc. Carole Morison, a former contract-poultry-farmer-turned-sustainable farmer-food-activist is the protagonist in a newly released anniversary video, exposing the harms of the factory farm industry. This video features a group coined “The Women Warriors” who have been working to hold the factory farm industry accountable continuously in Maryland in the 10 years after Food, Inc was originally released.
Marylanders deserve healthy air and a government that is accountable to its people, not unchecked corporate irresponsibility. Marylanders deserve a transparent and robust air quality study with an extensive analysis of the impacts on public health so that the state can finally address harmful community exposures. Marylanders deserve the Community Healthy Air Act and Food & Water Watch intends to work to pass it.
To help pass the Community Healthy Air Act...