Howard E. Chaney, state health official

Howard E. Cheney

Howard E. Chaney, a retired Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene official whose career spanned more than three decades, died Sunday of cancer at his Lutherville home. He was 95.

Howard Edward Chaney was born and raised in Baltimore and graduated from the Polytechnic Institute in 1935. He then took a job as a laboratory assistant with the state Department of Health — now the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene — in the Division of Chemistry, where his job was washing glassware and test tubes.


During the 1930s, he attended night school at the Johns Hopkins University and later spent a semester at Georgetown University and subsequently the University of Maryland, College Park.

Mr. Chaney earned a bachelor's degree in 1955 in chemistry from Johns Hopkins and in 1957 earned a master's degree in environmental medicine from the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health.


After studying at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, N.Y., on an Atomic Energy Commission fellowship, Mr. Chaney earned a second master's degree in 1960 in hygiene radiation protection from the Harvard University School of Public Health.

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, he worked for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission and was later promoted to assistant engineer at the Robert B. Morse Water Filtration Plant at Four Corners in Montgomery County.

In 1942, he became director of the state Department of Health's Eastern Shore Laboratory in Cambridge, a position he held until 1952, when he returned to Baltimore and was named chemist in the department's Division of Industrial Health and Air Pollution.

Mr. Chaney later joined the department's Division of Occupational Health, where he was appointed in 1960 to head its radiation-control program.

In a 1960 interview with The Baltimore Sun, Mr. Chaney explained his new role and responsibilities, which were the control of "radioactive materials, both natural and man-made isotopes, and all machines and devices such as X-ray units, fluoroscopes, beta gages, static eliminators and atomic reactors."

He added: "The protection of the public's health will be our first and major responsibility. It is our duty to minimize the hazards without deterring development of the beneficial uses of ionizing radiation."

Mr. Chaney also developed the rules and regulations for the radiation control program in cooperation with the Atomic Energy Commission and the U.S. Public Health Service.

"Elimination of unnecessary exposure to radiation will be one of our prime considerations," said Mr. Chaney, especially leaks from defective X-ray machines and fluoroscopes.

During inspections at the time, 75 percent of the X-ray machines and 90 percent of fluoroscopes "were found to have one or more deficiencies," reported The Sun.

When the N/S Savannah, the world's first atomic-powered ship, called at the port of Baltimore in 1964, The Sun reported that "all silt and water alongside the ship and air, rain, shellfish and milk samples in the Baltimore area would be checked for signs of increased radioactivity during the visit."

"We really don't expect to detect any increase in radioactivity," Mr. Chaney told the newspaper.

From 1964 to 1966, he headed the Division of Occupational Health. In 1966, he was appointed director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection.


His major accomplishment was implementing a 1969 state law that required all transparent glass doors in all public and private buildings be marked, in order to stop people from walking into them and injuring themselves.

In 1970, he was named acting director of the state Department of Environmental Health Administration, and a year later became its director, a position he held until retiring in 1974.

He was a fellow of the American Public Health Association and a former chairman of its Radiological Health Section. He also was a past chairman of the Baltimore Washington Industrial Health Association and of the Baltimore Washington Radiological Association.

After retiring, Mr. Chaney embarked on a second career as a real estate appraiser and worked for the next decade for Kern Realty & Appraisers and finally O'Conor & Flynn.

He was an active member for 30 years of the Towson-Timonium Kiwanis Club, where he was awarded the Hixon and Walter Zeller medals for outstanding service. A Mason, he had also been a 60-year member of Mount Moriah Lodge 116.

Mr. Chaney was an accomplished woodworker, especially of furniture and a grandfather clock, and was still enjoying the hobby until six months ago, family members said. He was also a cat fancier.

"He was such a gentle spirit and loving soul. His goal in life since I have known him was to be kind, peaceful and loving," said a stepdaughter, Carol Smith of Denver.

"He was never pompous or arrogant and had the ability to talk to anyone," said Ms. Smith. "And he was brilliant."

Mr. Chaney was a longtime member and former vestryman at Holy Comforter Episcopal Church, 130 W. Seminary Ave., Lutherville, where funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday.

In addition to his stepdaughter, Mr. Chaney is survived by his wife of 10 years, the former C. Joan Myers; a son, Larry Chaney of Lutherville; a stepson, Lawrence Myers of Cripple Creek, Colo.; two other stepdaughters, Phyllis Jones of Fruita, Colo., and Elsa Lippert of Mosinee, Wis.; two grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; and five great-great-grandchildren. His wife of 43 years, the former Lester De Armet, died in 1994.

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