The Hidden Hazard of Poultry Litter Pelletization

The following letter to the editor was submitted by the Center for a Livable Future to The Baltimore Sun following an article published in Sunday’s edition on Perdue’s efforts to recycle poultry litter. The article was also discussed in a blog post on B’MoreGreen yesterday.

We were disappointed to see that Timothy Wheeler left out any mention of an important environmental and human health consideration in his recent piece on the Perdue poultry manure pelletization plant (“Perdue manure recycling plant reduces nutrients in bay”).

According to estimates from Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc., 88% of domestically produced broiler chickens are fed an arsenic-containing drug called roxarsone.  Some of the arsenic from this drug stays behind in the edible portions of the chicken, and the rest ends up in the poultry manure.

Numerous scientific and peer-reviewed research studies have measured heightened levels of arsenic in poultry manure, and research from the United States Geological Survey and other researchers has shown that the arsenic in poultry manure is rapidly converted into an inorganic form that is highly water soluble and capable of moving into surface and ground water.

Inorganic arsenic is recognized by the U.S. EPA as a carcinogen.  Earlier this year, the agency released a draft reassessment of arsenic toxicity, which indicates that the most recent evidence suggests that arsenic is 17 times more potent as a carcinogen than previously understood.  Arsenic exposures have also been linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurological deficits, and other health problems. Read More >

Transforming and Rewriting Baltimore: How the city’s new zoning code may affect your health and what you can do about it.

Baltimore's Food Deserts

Baltimore's Food Deserts

Baltimore is currently in the process of revising its zoning code for the first time since 1971. Since this process only happens once every 30-40 years, this is your once in a lifetime chance to influence what development in this city is going to look like for the next 40 years. Here’s a little info on what zoning has to do with health and what changes related to health are in store the newly released draft code which is open for public comment until September 10, 2010. Read on to get a sense of what to look for from the health perspective in the rewrite and how to participate in the rewrite process as a resident of Baltimore.

What does zoning have to do with public health?

If you are someone who cares about health in Baltimore, then you should care about the zoning code rewrite. Zoning influences the way a city looks from what kinds of houses and businesses can locate where, how big they can be, and often what the design of those buildings has to look like. Zoning codes comprise two pieces: a document that lists the categories of uses and a zoning map that assigns the zoning categories do different parts of the city. This is probably not news to you…but zoning is actually much broader than this. It dictates how much external lighting buildings can have, if and where farmers markets and urban agriculture can operate, how much parking both businesses and homes must offer, and also influences how “walkable” the city is.

The original goal of zoning was to protect ‘public health and welfare’ by separating healthy and unhealthy land uses – like keeping industry and manufacturing away from where people lived and went to school. Today, ‘public health and welfare’ encompasses much more than it used to – from safety from crime to mental health to food access. With this in mind, one can see how other aspects of the built environment and city-scape, such as green space, distribution of housing options and proximity to daily services, can play a role in influencing residents’ ability to lead healthy lives. Read More >

Is It Really ‘Local?’ Baltimore Sun Article Explores Grocer Marketing Claims

An article by Reporter Laura Vozella in the Baltimore Sun discusses the often deceptive grocery store displays claiming “local” produce. Vozella points out that large grocery chains, eager to get a bite of the locavore movement, are promoting produce from nearby farms – even when they have little in stock. It’s an effort by grocers to get back some of the market share they have been losing to the increasing numbers of famers’ markets. The article quotes Livable Future Bloggers Amanda Behrens and Rebecca Klein. While supermarkets appear eager to buy and sell more local produce there is the problem of logistics. “A certain number of [local] farmers could supply all the lettuce or apples, but if they’re not grouping those together before they get to the supermarket back door … you’re going to have 30 farmers trying to offload their produce,” said Klein. With the local growing season beginning to hit its peak-and favorable weather in many parts of the country-this year’s harvests and local markets will, no doubt, continue to grow.