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As part of a movement to ban the use of arsenic in poultry production
in Maryland, the consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch today
partnered with community leaders throughout the state to educate the
public about the environmental and public health problems associated
with the chemical.
A known poison, arsenic is often added to chicken feed in the form of
the compound roxarsone to control the common intestinal disease
coccidiosis, to promote growth and as a cosmetic additive. Chronic
exposure to arsenic has also been shown to increase the risk of cancer,
cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurological deficits and other health
"The FDA approved this drug in 1944 when FDR was president. Since
then, science has shown it's a dangerous, unnecessary contaminant in our
food supply," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food &
Water Watch. "Maryland has an opportunity to demonstrate true leadership
on this issue by banning the use of arsenic in its poultry facilities."
The seventh largest broiler-producing state in the U.S., according
the 2007 U.S. Census of Agriculture, Maryland sold nearly 300 million
broiler chickens that year. On the Delmarva Peninsula alone, 1,700
chicken operations raise 11 million chickens per week. Researchers
estimate that between 20 and 50 metric tons of roxarsone are applied to
crops there every year via poultry waste. Groundwater tests on both
sides of the Chesapeake Bay's Coastal Plains found arsenic in some
household wells reaching up to 13 times the Environmental Protection
Agency's (EPA) tolerance limit. Arsenic in chicken litter can convert to
more dangerous forms of arsenic than those originally used in feed.
This is why a bill to ban arsenic in chicken feed was introduced earlier
this year in the Maryland House of Delegates.
"A week ago today, Maryland's conservation-minded voters turned out
in force to send a message that protecting the health of our air, land,
water, and residents is an important priority," said Jen
Brock-Cancellieri, deputy director of the Maryland League of
Conservation Voters. "We hope that after reading this report, Maryland's
legislators will continue to speak up for their constituents and
support legislation to ban the unnecessary use of arsenic by the poultry
These concerns are reinforced by a new report on the poultry
industry's use of arsenic also released today by Food & Water Watch.
Poison-Free Poultry: Why Arsenic Doesn't Belong in Chicken Feed
exposes the dangerous, widespread use of arsenic in the poultry
industry and calls on Congress and the Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) to take action to update antiquated rules and protect consumers.
"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," said Jenny Levin, an advocate for Maryland PIRG. "As a proud
poultry production state, Maryland should ban the use of arsenic in
chicken feed immediately, thereby protecting a valuable industry and the
health and trust of its citizens."
Dr. Keeve Nachman, director of farming for the Future Program at the
Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future notes that "approval of
roxarsone for use in poultry and swine production is based on sorely
outdated science that ignores both our present-day understanding of
arsenic's toxicity and the potential for arsenic to contaminate soils,
water and crops where animal waste is spread."
Although approved for use in the chicken industry by the FDA over six
decades ago, the average American's annual chicken consumption has
since tripled from less than 20 pounds in the 1940s to nearly 60 pounds
in 2008. Yet the FDA hasn't revised its allowed levels for arsenic
residues in poultry since 1951.
Additionally, new studies show that arsenic residues may be higher in
chicken meat than previously known. USDA data suggests that the typical
American is eating between 2.13 and 8.07 micrograms of total arsenic
per day through consumption of chicken meat.
"The science shows the use of arsenic in chicken feed is dangerous
and that viable alternatives to arsenic exist," said Hauter. "The FDA
needs to stand up to the big chicken companies and make public health
The report outlines the shared responsibility by the FDA, USDA and
EPA for fixing a fragmented, antiquated system to regulate arsenic. It
concludes with recommendations to these agencies to mitigate the damage
already caused by arsenic in livestock feed and calls for a ban on
future use of arsenic for livestock production.
"One of the main reasons why we have found such strong demand for the
chickens grown on our pasture is that we don't use arsenic to raise
them," said Ted Wycall, owner of Greenbranch Farm, located on the
Eastern Shore. "Consumers are smart; they don't want to eat food
containing arsenic. Pasture-raised poultry is in big demand locally and
nationally. Farmers should consider this a tremendous business
opportunity; we need more of us doing this."
The full report can be downloaded here.
Food & Water Watch mobilizes regular people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water, and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people's health, communities, and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.(202) 683-2500
"The BLET is currently working to secure similar sick leave agreements with the other Class 1 railroads," said the union's national president, "and I hope this settlement will help bring those negotiations to a positive conclusion."
A leading railroad workers' union this week struck a landmark deal with industry giant Norfolk Southern to provide more than 3,300 employees up to seven days of paid sick leave each year.
"This is a big day for the BLET," declared Scott Bunten, a Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen general chairman. "Our members are the heart of the railroad, and this agreement is a major win in our tireless efforts to improve the quality of their experience on and off the job."
Similarly describing the union's engineers as "the hardest-working folks on the railroad," fellow BLET chairman Jerry Sturdivant said the agreement "recognizes the critical contributions our members make to keep the railroad and the American economy running."
Under the deal, Norfolk Southern engineers will get five paid sick days annually, plus they will be able to use up to two additional days of existing paid time off as sick leave. The new policy will take effect once union members ratify an accompanying quality-of-life agreement, which they are expected to vote on within the next month.
\u201cThe Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and Norfolk Southern Corporation announced Thursday that they have reached an agreement to provide up to seven paid sick days per year to BLET members. \n\nRead the full story: https://t.co/lsuG4IACyw\u201d— Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (@Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen) 1684442616
"We are proud to be the first to have reached a paid sick leave agreement for our dedicated BLET membership," said Dewayne Dehart, another union general chairman. "This trailblazing new deal ensures that engineers finally have access to the time they need and deserve to manage their personal well-being."
Although Norfolk Southern president and CEO Alan Shaw refused to commit to seven paid sick days for all employees while testifying before Congress in March, this week he also highlighted the historic nature of the new agreement, saying it "continues our industry-leading effort to enhance quality of life as we become the first railroad to reach an engineer sick leave deal."
According to a joint statement from the company and union, "With this agreement, almost all Norfolk Southern craft employees—approximately 98%—have entered into paid sick leave deals."
As The Associated Pressreported:
This deal follows the model established by the conductors union in its first sick-time deals with Norfolk Southern and CSX. Those train crew workers are getting better deals, with five days of sick time, than the other smaller rail unions that received four days of sick time. But train crews work much more unpredictable and demanding schedules than other rail workers.
The railroads have also agreed to pay workers for any unused sick time at the end of the year.
"The BLET is currently working to secure similar sick leave agreements with the other Class 1 railroads," said Eddie Hall, the union's national president, "and I hope this settlement will help bring those negotiations to a positive conclusion."
Railroad employees and their unions have generated national discussions about paid leave over the past year. In December, President Joe Biden signed related legislation—which blocked a looming strike and forced through a White House-brokered agreement that did not include any paid sick leave—while ignoring calls for an executive order guaranteeing rail workers sick days.
Since then, Norfolk Southern has become a household name, and federal lawmakers have proposed rail safety reforms, in the wake of a company train that carried hazardous materials derailing in East Palestine, Ohio—near the Pennsylvania border—in February.
The new deal comes as paid sick leave advocates on Capitol Hill renew their push for national legislation. Joined by leaders from nursing and railway unions on Wednesday, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) along with Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) introduced the Healthy Families Act (HFA) and the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act.
Mike Baldwin, president of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, said that "the BRS would like to thank those members of Congress who support paid sick leave. Rail workers were deemed essential during the pandemic. They came to work sick because they didn't want to miss a day's pay, or worse be disciplined for their absence."
"This legislation is important to rail workers," Baldwin added of the HFA. "It is an essential need, and it isn't just a frivolous want."
"We don't need to give in to Republican extortion or default," the House progressives asserted. "The Constitution grants the president another option."
After GOP House negotiators bailed on U.S. debt ceiling talks on Friday, around two-thirds of the Congressional Progressive Caucus urged President Joe Biden to "invoke his constitutional authority granted in the 14th Amendment" in order "to end Republican hostage-taking of the economy that could trigger a financial catastrophe."
Led by Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Deputy Chair Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Whip Greg Casar (D-Texas), 66 CPC members sent Biden a letter noting the "unremitting efforts by congressional Republicans to hold the economic health of our nation hostage," and calling on him to "fulfill the executive's constitutional duty to faithfully and impartially administer the funds already enacted by law at the direction of Congress."
The letter—which follows a similar call from some Senate Democrats and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—cites Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, which states that "the validity of the public debt of the United States... shall not be questioned."
Biden said earlier this month that he has been "considering" invoking the 14th Amendment, "but the problem is, it would have to be litigated," and "I don't think that solves our problem now."
\u201cNEW: 66 CPC members are calling on @POTUS to prepare all possible measures, including invoking the 14th Amendment, to protect our economy.\n\nWe don't need to give into Republican extortion or default. The Constitution grants the President another option.\nhttps://t.co/qriXLfepBi\u201d— Progressive Caucus (@Progressive Caucus) 1684528145
"Congressional Republicans who now refuse to pass a clean debt ceiling increase voted on three separate occasions under President [Donald] Trump to raise the debt ceiling without any preconditions or extraneous, harmful policies attached," the lawmakers noted. "They now threaten the full faith and credit of the United States, which Treasury Secretary [Janet] Yellen warned would 'produce an economic and financial catastrophe' and could occur as soon as June 1."
The letter points out that although House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) "stated that 'the greatest threat to our future is our national debt,' he led House Republicans in passing the 'Limit, Save, Grow Act,' which rescinds funding for [Internal Revenue Service] enforcement against tax evasion by wealthy individuals, which would increase the deficit by nearly $500 billion over the next 10 years."
"Republicans—who in 2017 voted unanimously to pass the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) that increased the federal deficit by $1.9 trillion over 10 years, with 83% of the law's benefits estimated to accrue to the richest 1% by 2027—also rejected commonsense proposals offered by your negotiators to close tax loopholes and raise revenue in the current budget discussions," the progressives added.
\u201cBREAKING: 60+ of us @USProgressives are calling on @POTUS to follow his constitutional responsibilities and end the Republican default crisis.\n\nWe should not let right-wing extremists risk the livelihoods of millions just to give further tax cuts to their corporate donors.\u201d— Congressman Greg Casar (@Congressman Greg Casar) 1684526306
The letter continues:
We believe that relenting to Congressional Republicans' economic ransom and negotiating on devastating budget cuts, additional work requirements for essential food and economic support, and fast-tracking fossil fuel projects that undermine our shared climate achievements is antithetical to our shared Democratic values. Surrendering to these extremist demands also sets a dangerous precedent that emboldens Republicans to pursue additional, anti-democratic hostage-taking, particularly after having been told previously that a clean debt ceiling increase was nonnegotiable.
GOP leaders insist that any debt ceiling deal would have to come with cuts to social safety net programs, and Biden has signaled his openness to considering some reductions. The CPC letter warns that the Republican framework could take jobs from 780,000 people; nutrition assistance from 1.2 million women, infants, and children; Medicaid coverage from up to 21 million Americans; rental assistance from 640,000 families; and more.
"If the options are either agreeing to major cuts to domestic priorities under the Republican threat of destroying the economy and moving forward to honor America's debts, we join prominent legal scholars, economists, former budget officials, and a former president in advocating for invoking the 14th Amendment of the Constitution," the progressives wrote.
"Not only does the debt ceiling run counter to the Constitution's mandate that the validity of America's public debt shall not be questioned," their letter adds, "it contradicts the appropriations law that requires the Treasury to issue debt for the funding you are obligated to administer at Congress' direction."
One lawmaker joined protesters in chanting, "We love trans people, we need trans people, trans people belong here!"
This is a developing story... Please check back for possible updates...
Transgender and nonbinary Nebraskans and their allies flooded the state Capitol on Friday as lawmakers began the final round of debate on Legislative Bill 754, the so-called "Let Them Grow Act," which would ban gender-affirming healthcare for trans minors.
The state is one of more than two dozen where Republicans have proposed bills prohibiting young people from getting healthcare that medical experts say reduces depression and suicidal ideation in teenagers struggling with gender dysphoria.
Lawmakers including state Sens. Machaela Cavanaugh (D-6) and Megan Hunt (I-8) have led a monthslong filibuster of L.B. 754, with Hunt telling her colleagues that blocking the bill's passage is a matter of protecting her own transgender son as well as young people across the state.
On Friday, Cavanaugh joined protesters gathered outside the Legislature floor in chanting, "We love trans people, we need trans people, trans people belong here!"
\u201cSenator Cavanaugh chanting in solidarity with the crowd.\n\nhttps://t.co/DtuvTPYMGi\u201d— Erin Reed (@Erin Reed) 1684518484
Earlier this week, the unicameral Legislature—which is officially nonpartisan but has twice as many Republicans holding seats as Democrats—voted to attach a 12-week abortion ban to L.B. 754.
Opponents of the bill presented during the debate a letter signed by more than 1,000 medical providers from across Nebraska, who called the 12-week ban "ill-informed" and said the bill, "in its monstrous, newly amended form, is a direct attack on the medical community of our state."
\u201cThis is the first page of the letter from more than 1k #Nebraska medical professionals @NebraskaMegan said is about to be read onto the floor by @senatormachaela.\u201d— Aaron Sanderford (@Aaron Sanderford) 1684513194
The progressive political commentary site Seeing Red Nebraskareported that as many as four protesters were arrested for demonstrating at the Capitol as the lawmakers debated.
\u201cThey appear to be arresting some protestors.\n\nhttps://t.co/aItWSGtQ43\u201d— Erin Reed (@Erin Reed) 1684527974
A vote on L.B. 754 was expected as early as Friday evening.