Public Health Concerns for Chicago

Air pollution is a major problem for Chicagoans, specifically in lower income neighborhoods that are near industrially zoned areas. Having grown up and lived here almost my entire life, I never physically have noticed that our air is dirty. However, friends who have left for extended periods of time and returned have told me that their is a significant drop in air quality when they come home. This is highly subjective, and obviously living in a city which built itself industrially lends itself to having more air pollution than a rural farm town. Yet there are preventable elements to this equation that Chicago has only recently started addressing, starting with the coal plants in Little Village and Pilsen.

According to the Chicago Tribune in 2012, the shutting down of the Crawford and Fisk plants ended Chicago’s reign as the only major city in the United States with two active coal plants within it’s city limits. Shutting them down certainly will lower the carbon emissions from our city which pollute our city and our planet. This also helps the communities such as the one around Perez Elementary in Pilsen. In 2011 there were three time periods where the lead content was above levels the federal government considers dangerous. To have this kind of poison exposure to our youth was outrageous and one could easily argue that it took longer for these plants to shut down because they were in low income communities.

To conclude, our lowest income communities have been the most at risk from ridiculous amounts of carbon dioxide, lead, and other elements that contribute to global warming, and local sicknesses. The first step has been completed, to take down these sources of pollution and poison. The next step is to implement new strategies into these areas to reverse the effects. Things like community gardens and planting more trees should be municipal efforts for these communities that have been neglected environmentally for so long.

Works Cited

Brown, Kate, and Andrew Jameton. Public Health Implications of Urban Agriculture. Vol. 21. S.l.: Oxford UP, 2007. Journal of Public Health Policy, 2000. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.

Hawthorne, Michael. “High Levels of Toxic Lead Found in Air outside Chicago School.” Tribunedigital-chicagotribune. Chicago Tribune, 01 Apr. 2011. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.

Wernau, Julie. “Closure of Chicago’s Crawford, Fisk Electric Plants Ends Coal Era.” Tribunedigital-chicagotribune. Chicago Tribune, 30 Aug. 2012. Web. 19 Feb. 2016.



7 thoughts on “Public Health Concerns for Chicago

  1. Another significant contributor to air pollution and perhaps most detrimental to public health are the petroleum coke storages near the Calumet River on Chicago’s South Side. Shortened to “petcoke,” this substance is a waste derivative of the oil refining in Northern Indiana. Oil companies, such as BP, store this waste in gigantic piles which will be eventually transported to China for further oil production. This substance is granular and incredibly light, therefore it can be lifted up by a strong wind and subsequently inhaled by any resident in the area. This substance is highly toxic and can cause an array of health problems, including cancer.
    I believe that this also needs greater attention by the government and health officials as this situation also disproportionately affects poorer residents as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Air pollution is really a big and significant problem for all the people in the world. As we all know that no can can live without air. People need the clean air to breath every day in their life. However, if you breath the air that is full of dust, you health will have a big problem. Beijing has the big problem of a pollution haze. People who live there cannot distinguish that if it is the day or night because of the strong pollution haze in that city. When the people go out, they must have the gauze mask. They do not want to breath the dirty air that is full of harmful chemicals. Think about that situation, we will know how the fresh and clean air is important for us. We do not want to have many cities that are full of pollution haze like Beijing in this planet, so everyone should be responsibility for this, especially some industries.


  3. Air pollution was something i never realized was happening until i left Chicago for a significant amount of time and when i came back realized the lower air quality because i wasn’t used to breathing it in everyday. It is hard to see if you are consistently in that environment!


  4. It interesting that you mentioned about your friends leaving and coming back, it’s almost unbelievable to accept. I have left Chicago too, but never noticed anything about the air quality or maybe I just haven’t left for extended period of time, which next time I plan to travel I will keep air quality in my mind for when I do return just to see if it is actually true. Aside from that I think air pollution is a serious matter, I live close to two factories, one is a soap and I’m not sure what the other one is. However, in the summer anytime I go bike riding past them, not only can you see the air being polluted but the smell is horrendous. Therefore, I agree with what you mentioned about how to reduce this health concern.


  5. The air quality in Chicago has had a significant on my personal health as well. When I lived in Kentucky, I had no issues with my asthma and breathing but it all returned the minute I moved back to Chicago. In addition, I rarely got sick in Kentucky but had back to back upper respiratory infections in the first month of me moving back here. Air pollution affects us and the health of every living organism on this planet. So I agree that this is a very important health concern that people should be considering.


  6. Interesting you mentioned air quality disparities in low-income neighborhoods-part of that can be attributed to the trend of building highways through cheaper communities because the land is less expensive to buy up. It wasn’t until the early 90’s that they stopped using lead in gas. Up until then, people living near highways could experience high blood lead levels because of particulates in exhaust!


  7. It’s funny one tends to think that our air isn’t all that bad after having visited cities that you can visibly see it when arriving via air or car like Los Angeles, Dallas and Mexico City. You tend to think Chicago is not as bad as our skyline looks pretty clear. However, I’ve started noticing more and more that family members are developing asthmatic and allergy issues. Children keep having more and more allergy problems since and early age. I also thought it was interesting to correlate that these air issues might be higher in lower income neighborhoods.


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