Delegates: Children's Environmental Health Report Provides Fuel for Change


ANNAPOLIS—Maryland lawmakers said Thursday they plan to use a new environmental report to support legislation designed to protect children from environmental health dangers, including pesticides and fracking chemicals.

The Maryland Environmental Health Network released its 2012 Maryland Children’s Environmental Health Progress Report Thursday.

“The report provides additional sound footing for the work we need to do. Without data from reports such as this, it becomes much harder to enact polices for the state going forward,” said Baltimore County Delegate Stephen Lafferty, the sponsor of a bill for a pesticide information reporting database.

The report found that the most dangerous environmental health factors affecting children in the state are the mining process called fracking, climate change, exposure to pesticides and toxic chemicals, and air and water pollution.

“These are not the only environmental health threats to children, but these have great opportunities right now for policy solutions that will benefit Marylanders,” said Rebecca Ruggles, a coordinator at the Maryland Environmental Health Network.

The Maryland Environmental Health Network is a nonprofit organization in Baltimore. It was established in February 2011 and some of its members include a public health professor at the University of Maryland, the legislative director for the Maryland Children’s Environmental Health Coalition, and a state advocate at Maryland PIRG. The report, prepared by the network, draws its conclusions from reviewing scientific reports and studies issued by federal and state agencies, academic institutions and peer-reviewed journals. It did not produce any original scientific information or research.

The report recommends that Maryland: gather more data on how toxic exposure occurs; look at the cumulative exposure and impact on certain communities and populations; identify chemicals of concern; address health implications and policies in energy selection, land use and water protection; and take a comprehensive approach to toxins and chemicals.

“We are proud that Maryland is the only state in the nation that sits on shell gas rock that is charting a pragmatic course. Every other state decided to drill first and ask questions later and we’ve seen the type of environmental and public health catastrophes that has created,” said Montgomery County Delegate Heather Mizeur.

Mizeur said Gov. Martin O’Malley’s 2014 fiscal year budget allows officials to study the public health effects of fracking before making a decision to use hydraulic fracturing to break up underground shale formations and release trapped natural gas.

“In the budget released this week, the governor has allocated $1.5 million to study the how the fracking process works, and if the state decides to move forward with the it, how it can be done safely as not to negatively affect the land and water, or the residents and businesses in the state,” said Raquel Guillory, the governor’s spokeswoman. No one from the governor’s office attended the meeting, and Guillory said the governor is not familiar with the report.

“In every energy industry there are some environmental risks. But for the most part we are aware of what they are and are able to use new technology to minimize those risks,” said Delegate Wendell Beitzel, R-Garrett. He said the risks include water contamination and the migration of fracking fluids to the surface.

Ruggles said Maryland has been a leader in health and protecting children and protecting the environment, but there is much more it needs to do.

“I’m tired of waiting for the federal government. The Toxic (Substances Control) Act has been on the book for 35 years and it hasn’t been changed.” said Delegate Jim Hubbard, D-Prince George’s, supporter of the Smart on Pesticides bill. “Until Congress gets off their butts and does something, I think states need to protect their own children, and that’s what we are going to do in the state of Maryland.”

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