(July 6, 2018) With Boardwalk merchants and residents sounding alarms over health concerns about lingering fumes from spray paint artist Mark Chase, both sides agreed to seek an amicable solution during Monday’s city council meeting.
Jerome Denk, who wrote a letter to the city sharing his concerns, said the spray paint fumes emitted by Boardwalk performers like Chase presents a health danger to visitors and citizens.
“It ruins the atmosphere at the Boardwalk where we want to promote a healthy lifestyle,” he said. “If smoking and vaping are not allowed on the Boardwalk how can spray paint be allowed?”
Terry Pollney, with Flashback Old Time Photos on the Boardwalk by First Street, said her location is negatively impacted by Chase’s paint performances.
“We have a narrow store without cross ventilation,” she said. “When the wind is blowing in our direction it comes right into our store.”
Pollney said numerous employees have complained about headaches and feeling queasy, which she attributes to paint fumes.
“We don’t have a way to get the paint out of our store,” she said. “When I’m at work I feel like I have to the right to have fresh air.”
Jasmine Yilmaz, who runs the Golden Plate Sub Shop on First Street near the Boardwalk, said although she has no issue with Chase personally, the paint fumes aggravate her asthma.
“I have nothing against him, he’s a good person, but the smell is terrible,” she said. “Customers complain about the smell and some of them don’t want to eat … here because of the smell.”
Denk noted there are governmental mandates concerning air pollution.
“The Clean Air Act specifically states the local government and EPA are responsible to monitor and protect us from harmful chemicals being dispersed into our air,” he said.
Denk also recommended spray paint artists only display finished art on the Boardwalk and produce work offsite
“Show the production through a multi-media presentation, rather than a live performance where they are unable to control the chemicals being dispersed,” he said.
For his part Chase claimed to have a strong working relationship with most Boardwalk merchants and specifically Yilmaz, while expressing surprise at learning of her heath issues.
“I just found out today she has asthma,” he said.
“Until we are actually told things as street performers we cannot resolve them. What we want … is for the store owners to talk to us.”
Although his operation may leave a trace aroma, Chase said the toxins released are non-existent.
“You might have a lingering smell,” he said. “It is no different than someone that breaks the law and smokes walking by your store,” he said. “You’re not going to catch cancer [and] you’re not going to die.”
Chase is working with a fellow Boardwalk performer who creates spray paint artwork to figure out potential solutions to negate the impact of their operations on Boardwalk merchants and visitors.
“We follow all the OSHA laws [and] all the EPA laws,”
he said. “A lot of it is nothing more than fear mongering with spray paint.”
After decades of exposure to paint fumes, Chase said the health risks are minimal.
“Everything in life is a [potential] carcinogen but it doesn’t mean it’s going to cause cancer,” he said. “I have been spray painting for 20 years and every year I have a checkup … it is not harmful.”
Mayor Rick Meehan, while not debating the health claims from Chase, said the issue needs addressing.
“It might not be harmful, but it is annoying,” he said. “It’s very difficult to taste food or get a true pleasure out of food if you’re smelling paint fumes.”
Meehan also instructed City Clerk Diana Chavis to contact numerous state agencies to research potential regulatory guidance.
“These artists are using a legal product and they are a mobile source,” Chavis said. “There is no permit that is required since these are mobile sources and they are not stationary in a building.”
Chavis also said the Maryland Department of the Environment Air Quality Control Division would investigate the matter further.
“They are going to talk to their supervisors and look into the matter further based on the nuisance complaints,” she said.
Council president Lloyd Martin asked Chase to meet with the concerned merchants to find a solution agreeable to all parties.
“Please work with the people there and make it better,” he said. “Please meet with them tomorrow and try to get something done.”