Improving Air Quality by Increasing Greenery

Image result for air pollution

Air pollution is commonly defined as the presence of “toxic chemicals or compounds in the air at levels that pose a serious health risk.”(6) Air pollution is broken down into two categories — indoor or outdoor air pollution. Pollutants, ranging from microorganisms and pesticides to chemical compounds found in household products, directly contribute to harmful indoor pollution. Since a majority of people spend a large part of their day indoors, the decreased air quality caused various pollutants can result in serious health complications. Therefore, people repeatedly exposed to poor air quality tend to suffer from a variety of lung and heart-related illnesses. For instance, people in frequent contact with asbestos may develop mesothelioma due to the fact that when inhaled microscopic asbestos fibers “can [cause] scarring of the lung tissue.”(3) Additionally, other indoor pollutants such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide can lead to asthma or aggravate existing asthma symptoms.(4)

  The second category of air pollution — outdoor air pollution– is caused by combustion processes from motor vehicles (5), industrialization, and other factors that emit chemical compounds into the air. Though not considered nearly as harmful to human health as indoor pollution, ,outdoor pollution is still detrimental to the environment and bad for human health. Outdoor pollution can also cause a variety of lung-related disorders including asthma since it contains many of the same pollutants, CO2 and NO2, as indoor pollution. With this in mind, it is imperative we take action to mitigate the effects of indoor and outdoor air pollution to maintain healthy air quality.

The best course of action for improving air quality, inside and out,  is increasing the amount of greenery inside of urban settings.  A recent study conducted in 2017 by the EPA, came to the same conclusion claiming that “Green infrastructure can play a significant role in mitigating urban air pollution.”(1) Essentially, leading to the idea that existing infrastructure in cities can be easily adapted to incorporate plant life to help improve air quality.  For example, green walls are a perfect option as they  can effectively “reduce pollution in streets [and] open roads.”(1) Additionally, the study concluded that increasing the amount small shrubs and tall trees would also improve air quality within cities — like Chicago.(2) This plan is not limited to outside city infrastructure, it can be incorporated into building and homes to mitigate indoor air pollution. The implementation of this plan would positively affect everyone by improving air quality. This plan relates to urban sustainability as it aims to increase the amount of plant life in urban environments which will in turn decrease the effect of air pollution.


(1.)  “Air Pollution Abatement Performances of Green Infrastructure in Open Road and Built-up Street Canyon Environments – A Review.” Atmospheric Environment, Pergamon, 10 May 2017,

(2.) “Cities Need to ‘Green up’ to Reduce Impact of Air Pollution.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily,

(3.)  “Indoor Air Can Cause Health Problems.” Indoor Air Can Cause Health Problems – Health Encyclopedia – University of Rochester Medical Center,

(4.)  “Indoor Air Pollutants and Health.” American Lung Association,

(5.) “Outdoor Air Pollution.” Outdoor Air Pollution, NSW Health,

(6.) “What Is Air Pollution?” What Is Air Pollution | Environmental Pollution Centers,   

(7.) Picture : jpg



Healthy Homes= Healthy People



It is important to remember that homes and buildings not only play a huge role in the realm of public health, but also transcend into urban sustainability . The homes that people inhabit can cause a number of undetected bodily damage such as poisoning, asthma and brain damage because of repeated emissions of carbon monoxide, mold, radon etc. throughout the home. Most of the homes in Chicagowere built over 60 years ago, so this issue is very abundant. The way these homes were once built and are now being maintained does not match the standard of health of the men, women and children that live in them, making these homes unsustainable. Because of the obvious factors of pollution and social irresponsibility put into these homes, the problem has increased. The issue of unhealthy homes is actually so plentiful that it was included in the Healthy Chicago Public Health Agenda. Now that this hidden problem is addressed, how can we reach a solution while upholding the values of sustainability ?


Our best course of action would be utilizing data and policy as a tool of developing and implementing sustainable maintenance to slowly but surely make homes more healthy in Chicago. This data would include how certain methods of maintenance effect people and their health, how maintenance is working now, what specific materials and costs look like, and matters of that nature. Through this data a policy can be manifested. This would affect neighborhoods that have high levels of unhealthy homes. This plan allows for small steps to be taken gradually, and then solutions to be implemented gradually due to data. When addressing environmental and health issues , it is important to integrate the two to the best of the city’s abilities because they ultimately go hand in hand. If environmental health is diminishing, it is unlikely that the health of the people that live in the environment is thriving.

Internet Tracking

In current cities, energy is using in many aspects such as transport, manufacturing, mining and so on. Those aspects really tied with our daily life. Usually, Transportation takes almost 60% of operational energy and the rest of commercial buildings, Residential buildings, water & waste landfill take are taking for 26%. Those things are connecting with all humans, so it means we need to using energy mostly for every second as we live in urban area. However, we usually do not notice that in our daily lives. As long as we did not notice about how many energy we used in our cities, we won’t care about the solution of wasting energy. Therefore, I would like to encourage the government to create some apps that we could track the situation of using energy in Chicago. In present, apps could help us track how long can a bus reach a bus station, what is the weather for the next week, and map the distance from your destination to where you are. Then, why don’t we create an app that is for energy using? Everyone could check for how many energy used in transport, residential buildings, commercial buildings and so on. Also, people could input their actions, such as driving for 30 mins, and the app will calculate how much energy may cause by that action. Other than that, the app could also suggest you for how to create the smallest amount of energy use in daily life. Then, all of the people in Chicago could track what their daily using energy straightly by their phone.  Based on that, I think people will start to notice and care about saving energy in daily life.

“Water” we doing?

Being that the earth is 70% water, we expect to always have a good supply when we need it or simply want it. We take this resource for granted and have yet to learn about problems that not only affect our surroundings, but also affects the people. In 2016, Pepsi admitted that the bottled water brand, Aquafina, was not purified. Which means that they simply used tap water. (Ryan 2016) Because Aquafina was using tap water, they had to change their labels to indicate what they had done. “Aquafina is the single biggest bottled water brand, and its bottles are now labeled ‘P.W.S.’ The new labels will spell out ‘public water source.’” (Aquafina Changes Label to Identify Water Source 2007) Even though tap water is much cheaper, it could most likely be contaminated with “high levels fluoride and pharmaceuticals. And in the case of Flint, Michigan, dangerously high levels of lead.” (Ryan 2016) Contaminated water affects people globally, and sadly, companies like Pepsi Co. have contributed to this water poisoning.


Water poisoning is not only an issue in water bottles, it also affects neighborhoods. Neighborhoods like Pilsen are doing their part to alleviate this problem. The Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization distributed water filters and indicated how to install the filters. On September 23rd, 2017, the St. Pius V Parish passed out these filters to their residents and “the Pilsen Clean Water Expo also feature[d] chlorine test demonstrations and signups for water quality tests.” (Cheung 2017) They’re informing their neighborhoods and teaching them that it doesn’t matter how little lead is found in the water, it is still not safe.


Earlier this year, I heard on the news that kids at school were becoming sick. After further investigation, they found out that these kids had a percentage of lead in their systems. School were closed because kids could not drink from the fountains. “Elevated lead levels have been found in hundreds of water fixtures in Illinois’ second largest public-school district following an initial round of testing earlier this year.” (Masterson 2017) Kids were being poisoned without even knowing. “Nearly 350 sinks, coolers and water fountains tested in May for lead came back above Illinois’ actionable level, according to the Elgin-based U-46 School District, which notified parents last week about the testing results conducted at 37 of its 57 schools.” (Masterson 2017) Hanover Elementary had results of 1,690 ppb, while at Clinton Elementary had a result of 3,120 ppb. “More than 620 times higher than the state’s minimum action level.” (Masterson 2017) The way the school district is handling this situation is by making sure fixtures that were installed before 1987 to go through testing before 2017 ends. Apparently, if even a water fountain has more than 5 ppb, it would be shut off. Hopefully, all schools will be tested for lead, especially in neighborhoods with low income. All pipes should be examined and replaced if they are too old or rusted to prevent further contamination.


Works Cited:

  1. Aquafina Changes Label to Identify Water Source. August 1. Accessed October 5, 2017.

Cheung, Ariel. 2017. Pilsen Group Giving Away Free Water Filters At Clean Water Expo Saturday. September 22. Accessed October 5, 2017.

Masterson, Matt. 2017. Testing Reveals High Lead Levels in U-46 District Schools. July 14. Accessed October 5, 2017.

Ryan, Kate. 2016. Pepsi Admits Aquafina Bottled Water Is Plain Tap Water, AKA Straight Trash. February 25. Accessed October 5, 2017.


A Sustainable Commute

The City of Chicago has the third largest public transit system in the United States. However, the highways still have had a significant increase in motor traffic. According to Jerry Hirsch, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, the number of cars on the road was at 253 million in 2014. There are approximately 16 million cars added to the road annually when the data was reported. This increase of cars on the outdated highways has lengthened travel times during rush hour, plus increased carbon emissions from vehicles at unsustainable rates.



The best course of action to reduce vehicle emissions would be to take public transportation to and from work daily. Pace, a suburban public bus service provides rides to and from the suburbs on the same highways to get to Chicago, but drives on the shoulder during rush hour to get passengers to their destination faster. Other alternatives include walking, cycling, or driving to a Metra train station and taking the train to your destination in the city. While a car is still being used in this example, the commuter is still driving less than normal distance to their destination. Also, fully electric cars are a great alternative to gas guzzlers, depending on sources used to charge the vehicle.

In order to reduce the amount of vehicles on the road, baby steps must be taken prior to changing the lifestyle habits of millions of Americans. The city government should promote sustainable initiatives to commuters to alert them of the irreversible environmental impacts carbon emissions are having on the planet.

Pernicious Power Plants

Pollution and global warming is a frequently talked about topic in today’s politics. However, there isn’t always a lot of support to go green. Many people fail to recognize that efforts to create sustainable practices does not just benefit the earth we live on, but also our own health. This is especially important in urbanized areas with dense populations, such as the city of Chicago. The number one polluter in the Unites States of America is power plants. Sadly, Chicago accounts for the second highest ranked city in the nation to be victim of the harmful pollution produced by these plants.

Some of the effects Chicago has experienced because of these dirty power plants is mercury-contaminated fish, ozone smog induced asthma attacks, and a threatened economy due to global warming caused by the pollution. To quantify this data, fine particle pollution emitted by power plants has shortened the lives of 1,356 Illinoisans each year. In addition, 195,698 lost work days, 1,333 hospitalizations, and 33,986 asthma attacks every year have occurred because of the pollution created by the power plants in Illinois. The American Cancer Society has found that people living in highly polluted cities are twelve percent more likely than those living in the cleanest areas of the country to suffer from cardiopulmonary death.

Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago, said following the removal of two of Chicago’s coal power plants “This marks a turning point from Chicago’s reliance on two highly polluting coal plants that use fuel from out of state to a cleaner energy future that’s less polluting and uses more Illinois wind and other clean resources.

To alleviate the negative effects these plants have had on our city, we should shift to using cleaner energy. There are many options to replace these dirty power plants such as the construction of hydroelectric dams, wind turbines, nuclear power plants, and solar energy farms. There are also smaller-scale and much simpler options such as improving our energy efficiency by switching CFL bulbs to LED ones. In addition, we can retrofit our current coal power plants to make them more sustainable by storing the CO2 exhaust instead of allowing it to be released into the atmosphere. A combination of these options would be a practical solution to the problem of coal power plants, but would take some time and will be considerably more expensive than the current energy system in place. Still, they should be highly contemplated considering the horrific effects coal power plants have already had on our city, and other major cities in the U.S.


Works Cited

“Closure of Chicago’s Crawford, Fisk electric plants ends coal era.” Tribunedigital-Chicagotribune, 30 Aug. 2012,

“Illinois’ Dirty Power Plants.” Chicago State University,

“Replacing Coal With Clean Energy – Let Me Count the Ways.” Climate Central, 25 July 2011,

reporter, Michael Hawthorne Tribune. “Just outside Chicago, a major polluter lurks.”, 4 Mar. 2011,



Asthma In the Inner City

Asthma is a disease that appears to affect individuals in the inner city more than any other group, specifically African Americans. “African Americans in the United States have so much difficulty with asthma while the disease remains rare among children living in rural villages in Africa or other ‘undeveloped’ countries.” (Platts-Mills) An increase of cars, planes, and pollution in general has had a tremendously negative effect on air quality in virtually every environment on this planet. In our cities the amount of pollution is downright despicable. Children, especially those in the inner city are diagnosed with asthma at a staggering rate, and this trend has continued to grow over the years.  At the current rate of pollution, even more groups will be severely affected, but I ask is this the only reason we will decide to act?

The biggest issue is targeting the areas in the city that produce the most pollution, and finding ways to prevent, stop and reverse the flow of contaminants into the atmosphere. Next is figuring out why the inner city population is so disproportionately affected by pollution. “The United States is one of the few countries where asthma prevalence and severity are related to poverty.”(Platts-Mills) If poorer neighborhoods have higher rates of asthma and air pollution, what sets wealthy neighborhoods apart even if they are still in the city? Trees. “Income is one of the strongest indicators we have of tree cover” (Bienkowski)  It is obvious that trees have a positive effect on urban environments. What is not so obvious is that the presence of trees completely changes the economic landscape and almost immediately adds value to an area. 

Although several expensive actions could be taken to reduce pollution, such as installing carbon capture centers, redesigning the current fleet of public transportation vehicles to have cleaner emissions, or changing energy systems to move away from fossil fuels and to renewables. A simple solution is to plant more trees. There is simply not enough oxygen production and air filtration occurring in inner city environments for them to reasonably be considered habitable. Having a more diverse range of plant life helps both the health of the population, and economic productivity in these areas.



Platts‐Mills, Thomas A. E. “Asthma Among Inner City Children.” Wiley Online Library,;2-N/epdf.

Bienkowski, Brian. “More money means more trees in US cities.” More money means more trees in US cities. — Environmental Health News, 24 Apr. 2015,

Wallace, Lance A, et al. “Particle concentrations in inner-City homes of children with asthma: the effect of smoking, cooking, and outdoor pollution.” Environmental Health Perspectives, U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 2003,

Heynen, Nik. “Green Urban Political Ecologies: Toward a Better Understanding of Inner-City Environmental Change.” Green Urban Political Ecologies: Toward a Better Understanding of Inner-City Environmental ChangeEnvironment and Planning A – Nik Heynen, 2006,

Minimizing Exhaust Pollution

Its safe to say that automobiles are one of the biggest contributors when it comes to pollution. Did you know that in the United States, vehicles are the cause of approximately 75% of our carbon monoxide pollution? That’s a pretty large number considering the United States has about 30% of the worlds vehicles. Exhaust pollution  not only contaminates the air, but it harms us as well. Pollution puts us at greater risk of developing respiratory illnesses such as Asthma. In Mexico City there is a program that’s currently in effect known as, Hoy No Circula, which translates to No Circulation today. This program restricts the operation of certain vehicles throughout the week. My solution to pollution  is to follow in the footsteps of Mexico City and put this program into effect as soon as possible. Once a week, cars with license plate numbers ending in certain numbers will not be permitted to be driven. For example, if the last digit of your car’s license plate ends with a 3, you will not be permitted to drive that vehicle on Tuesdays. Those who don’t obey will  be punished with a small fine. In Mexico City, this program has proven much success and has helped reduce the amount of exhaust pollution. I Believe that if we were to have this program, we would very well have the same results as New Mexico. This program encourages drivers to find a new method of transportation and may even create new eco friendly habits and lifestyles. This program would result in both less exhaust pollution and less respiratory diseases.


“All Vehicles Subject to No-Drive Rule in Mexico City.” Mexico News Daily, 31 Mar. 2016,

Brinson, Linda C. “How Much Air Pollution Comes from Cars?” How Much Air Pollution Comes from Cars? | HowStuffWorks, HowStuffWorks, 29 Aug. 2012,


Air pollution from transportation

People living in Chicago and nearby areas are facing some serious high risk of cancer, lung diseases, and other public health issue according to a Tribune analysis of federal data. One of the problems causing the air pollution is the vehicle we use every day, it produces significant amount of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and other harmful elements. In 2013, transportation provided more than half of the carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, and almost a quarter of the hydrocarbons emitted into our air. Hence, one of the ideas I am thinking is we can imitate what Beijing is doing which cars are blocked from the street once every weekday, depending on the final digit of their license plate with two numbers banned each day. For example, Monday the final digit with 1 and 2 will be banned and Tuesday the final digit with 3 and 4 will be banned and so on.  Although it might cause some inconvenience for some people who have been driving to work or school I think it is possible and reasonable to make a sacrifice just for one day. In this way, there will be less pollution every day and the city will benefit from it in the long term. The government should also release some data to the citizen so that they will recognize the issue and the reason behind, it is important for us to keep the environment sustainable not only for us but also for our future generation.
Vehicles produce significant amounts of air pollution that's harmful to human health.




Chicago Water: Still Safe?

Water sources can be an essential part of life for urban cities. Whether it is in our showers, or in our cups to drink, water is a huge part of life. Chicago has Lake Michigan to thank for its water source, and even the Chicago River helps to bring some relief from all the cars and concrete. A well-known fact is that Chicago has great drinking water, but this is not to say that we can rule out all hazards. Lead, of course, is one of the main water hazards for any place of residence. If found in a city’s water source, the people who live there and drink it could have health issues related to the brain. Mayor Rahm Emmanuel has made it very clear that one of his top priorities is to make Chicago as green as possible. With this “green movement” so far up on his list he often likes to start on projects as soon as possible. Last year, around February, the Mayor and city officials decided to replace several water mains and install new meters. Though proving beneficial in the long-run, what the city failed to do was warn the residents of the possible lead contamination they could receive from such a construction project. The EPA notes that after such a disruption to the water mains, lead can be an issue for up to years after the initial project completion.

So how can a city prevent all and every possible lead contamination? Well, I guess the solution would not be one hundred percent perfect, but other cities have benefited greatly from removing all lead pipes. For example, Madison, Wisconsin was one of the first cities to be greatly affected by lead contamination in the water. In total, they removed all 8,000 pipes, making it a rather drastic plan for other cities. The entire transformation took about 10 years to complete.

If such a plan were to manifest in Chicago, it would really only affect those living in older buildings/houses. From a study conducted by the EPA in 2011 and 2012, it was estimated that the city of Chicago had about 400,000 lead service lines bringing water into people’s homes. Replacing all of the lead sources seems to be the only real solution to such a public health concern, though it certainly wouldn’t be very cost-friendly. This solution could also make for an opportunity to implement newer, better, and more sustainable pipes. It is recommended, that when looking for appropriate pipes to reduce water waste, that they be leak-free and well insulated. If the city would be removing the old pipes anyway, why not just take advantage and replace them with these more sustainable ones?