Post-Industrial Environment Inequity in Chicago Housing Authority’s Altgeld Gardens



Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (source: 


It is clear that industrial practices from the industrial revolution continues to be a problem for public health as 1) residentialization took place close to brownfields before health risks were known and 2) changing land use patterns caused residentialization on brownfields. Compounding the obvious problem, on the far Southside of Chicago, public housing projects were built on what has been called the most contaminated land in the United States. As Earnshaw points out, in the case of Northwestern Indiana, these issues of contaminated land intersect with social justice. To summarize, this land has led to respiratory illness and lack of justice for the residents.

“Residents of those cities live with some of the nation’s worst air quality and highly contaminated waters as well as elevated cancer and asthma rate, the report says.” In Chicago, the residents of the Altgeld Gardens CHA development face similar health issues, with the community being called a “toxic doughnut”. When some of the lowest income residents in a city are subject to “certain cancers [that are] five times as common in some Southeast Side communities as they were in the rest of the city” (Chicago Tribune)

The conditions here are such that this community was the focus of Barack Obama when he was a community organizer in Chicago. When the poorest people in a given area are subject to subpar environmental conditions, such that they may live 16 fewer years than people in the wealthiest parts of the same city, the environmental injustice and course of action is clear. These issues are not ones isolated to remote areas, or nuclear disposal sites, they exist here in Chicago and in other residentializing areas of the United States.


Surrounding Industrial Activity to Altgeld Gardens (source:


Earnshaw, Rob. “Study finds environmental injustice in Northwest Indiana” August, 2014.

Schiller, Ben. “10 Maps that show the Enormous Health Differences in 10 U.S. Cities” May, 2015

Research Gate, Figure 1 “Altgeld Gardens and Surrounding Area” and Context,


One thought on “Post-Industrial Environment Inequity in Chicago Housing Authority’s Altgeld Gardens

  1. The opening image that you used for this post is very though provoking. I went ahead and took a look at the article it was attached to. The article was just stating that the life expectancy was different due to death rates. It seemed like the research was done as a way to start a conversation and begin looking for cause and effect. I’m not saying that post-industrial waste at brownfields doesn’t contribute to the disparity, but it seems like a more complex issue. There could be a lot of contributing factors to the difference in life expectancy. But it sure is crazy to learn that there is a 16 year difference in the City of Chicago.


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