What do we want? Health advisories! When do we want them? NOW!

On November 1, Friends of the Everglades staff traveled to West Palm Beach to take part in a protest against sugarcane burning organized by the Sierra Club’s Stop the Burn campaign. Advocates for ending the burns stood shoulder-to-shoulder on the sidewalk across from the Palm Beach County Department of Health waving signs and calling in unison for the state agency to start prioritizing the public health of exposed residents by issuing advisories when sugarcane fields burned.

Sugarcane fields burn in the Everglades Agricultural Area six to eight months of the year, blanketing nearby communities in ash that residents call “black snow.” Members of communities subjected to smoke and ash have said that they struggle to breathe and research has linked an increase in reports of respiratory distress to exposure. The burn season, which began on October 1, will continue through the spring of next year. Residents are asking the Department of Health — and they’ve got a right to know — “Where’s our warning?”

Representatives of the Stop the Burn campaign have requested a meeting with the Palm Beach County DOH in hopes of securing advisories that would alert people when sugarcane is being burned. 

DOH has yet to respond.