Catonsville Times: Activists seek stop to arsenic in chicken feed (featuring Rob Brennan + alterego)

November 12, 2010

Activists seek stop to arsenic in chicken feed

Catonsville business owner hosts session

By Lauren Fulbright

Environmental activists gathered in downtown Catonsville Tuesday morning in an effort to ban the use of arsenic in poultry production in Maryland.

Arsenic, a known poison, is added to chicken feed to control a common intestinal disease and promote growth, according to a release from Food & Water Watch, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group.

“There’s a chemical that some of us more commonly are familiar with as an active ingredient in rat poison that’s being fed to chickens across the U.S. and being fed to our families when we serve at the dinner table,” said event organizer Clary Franko Nov. 9.

Franko cited a report from Food & Water Watch on the potential public health risks associated with arsenic.

“Chronic exposure to arsenic is associated with increased risk for bladder, kidney, lung, liver and colon cancer, as well as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes,” said Jenny Levin, public health associate for Maryland Public Interest Research Group, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group.

Rob Brennan, a local architect and the owner of the Catonsville shop Alterego, hosted the event at his shop, 640 Frederick Road.

Alterego provides environmentally friendly home products including flooring, walls, countertops, tables and tile, he said.

Brennan said healthy communities depend on the buildings people live and work in, as well as the food that they eat and where it comes from.

“We support healthy, nontoxic materials— certainly for the home— and believe it should be community-wide in terms of everything that people use and ingest,” Brennan said.

Levin said her organization is particularly concerned about children’s exposure to arsenic.

Children’s bodies are not as capable at flushing toxins as adults’ bodies are, she said.

“Think about how much chicken children eat,” Levin said. “It’s one of their favorite foods.”

Based on the 2007 U.S. Census of Agriculture, Maryland was the seventh largest producer of broiler chickens in the country, the release states.

Noting that there are alternatives to arsenic, Levin questioned why the public is still being exposed to it.

“We should be able to eat chicken without consuming harmful additives, but Marylanders are inadvertently exposing themselves and their loved ones to a known carcinogen hidden in a seemingly nutritious meal,” she said.