WBEZ | smog http://www.wbez.org/tags/smog Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Weary of high Chicago asthma rates, some lobby Washington http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/weary-high-chicago-asthma-rates-some-lobby-washington-107461 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/emb/1414631937/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/A-hazy-Chicago-skyline.-%28Evan-Butterfield-via-Flickr%29_0.jpg" title="A hazy Chicago skyline. (Evan Butterfield via Flickr)" /></a></div></div><p>The <a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/asthma" target="_blank">asthma</a> hospitalization rate in Chicago remains significantly higher than the national average. While the origins of the disease remain elusive, mounting evidence has made its risk factors more clear, and Chicago has somewhat of a perfect storm for asthma problems.</p><p>Part of the city&rsquo;s above-average rate is demographic. Minorities have a higher prevalence of asthma. Puerto Ricans,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nbcnews.com/id/40797298/ns/health-allergies_and_asthma/t/puerto-rico-baffled-high-asthma-rate/#.Uai9_WSG3Os" target="_blank">even when sharing the same environmental conditions as other ethnic groups, suffer higher asthma rates</a>. African-Americans, too, <a href="http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/templates/content.aspx?ID=6170" target="_blank">are significantly more likely to have asthma than non-Hispanic Whites</a>, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.</p><p>And while the demographic trend is toward higher risk for asthma in cities like Chicago, the &ldquo;triggers&rdquo; that set off asthma attacks are also clustered in and around the nation&rsquo;s major metros.</p><p>&ldquo;Having the disease is one thing. Having it under control is another,&rdquo; said Brian Urbaszewski, director of environmental health programs for <a href="http://www.lungchicago.org/" target="_blank">Respiratory Health Association</a>.</p><p>Based in the West Loop, the nonprofit RHA has worked to fight lung disease since 1906. They promote asthma awareness and education, and have joined with environmental groups to advocate pollution controls for area coal plants. Public health studies <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/six-months-after-fisk-and-crawford-chicago-area-coal-still-struggling" target="_blank">tied Chicago&rsquo;s shuttered Fisk and Crawford coal plants to 2,800 asthma attacks annually</a>.</p><p>Asthma is a chronic disease, meaning there is no cure. But poverty makes it difficult to manage a recurring condition like asthma, which could require a lifetime of treatment.</p><p>&ldquo;Nobody should wind up in the hospital for asthma,&rdquo; Urbaszewski said.</p><p>Yet each year there are thousands of asthma hospitalizations in Chicago alone. Death rates from asthma are particularly high for African Americans and Hispanics, and are concentrated in urban areas, including Chicago.</p><p><a href="http://www.epa.state.il.us/air/aqi/" target="_blank">Air quality in the Chicago area</a> has improved since 2000, following a national trend, but <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/cook-countys-air-quality-gets-f-american-lung-association-106828" target="_blank">The American Lung Association again flunked Chicago in its annual &ldquo;State of the Air&rdquo; report released in April</a>. Local agencies have taken steps to improve air quality awareness, including a new <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/new-flag-program-promote-air-quality-chicago-area-106911" target="_blank">system of colored flags for Chicago schools</a>. But air pollution from vehicle exhaust remains a major factor for poor air quality.</p><p>Urbaszewski recently traveled to Washington to push for <a href="http://www.epa.gov/otaq/tier3.htm" target="_blank">new smog standards proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency</a>. The EPA is accepting public comments on their Tier 3 Vehicle Emission and Fuel Standards program through July 1.</p><p>New research suggests some air pollution might directly cause asthma, as opposed to it just triggering an attack, but the principal cause of the disease remains unclear.</p><p>A&nbsp;<a href="http://www.sciencecodex.com/road_traffic_pollution_as_serious_as_passive_smoke_in_the_development_of_childhood_asthma-109075" target="_blank">recent study in the <em>European Respiratory Journal</em></a>, the first ever to estimate the how many asthma cases could be linked to road traffic pollution specifically,&nbsp;found car exhaust on par with second-hand smoke. The study said 14 percent of chronic asthma in kids is caused by car exhaust, comparable to the 4 to 18 percent bracket of childhood asthma cases resulting from exposure to second-hand smoke, according to World Health Organization estimates. There are more diesel cars in Europe, however, whose fine particle soot could exacerbate the effect compared to the U.S. auto fleet.&nbsp;</p><p>Whether or not it causes asthma, <a href="http://spatial.usc.edu/index.php/2012/09/near-roadway-air-pollution-a-major-contributor-to-asthma-in-los-angeles-county-usc-research-finds/" target="_blank">car exhaust &mdash; a major contributor of smog, or ground-level ozone &mdash;&nbsp;is a potent trigger for asthma attacks</a>.</p><p>The proposed EPA standards, which wouldn&rsquo;t take effect until 2017, would require auto manufacturers to build heartier catalytic converters &mdash; the car part that chews up noxious chemicals before they exit the tailpipe &mdash; and oil producers to clean sulfur impurities from gasoline. <a href="http://thehill.com/blogs/regwatch/energyenvironment/302573-oil-industry-frets-new-smog-standard-" target="_blank">Oil and gas companies have spoken out against new regulations</a>, which they call an undue burden on the recovering economy. The steps would raise the cost of gas slightly, but proponents of the higher standard say the cost would be about one cent per gallon.</p><p>&ldquo;Are you going to spend that money on pain and suffering,&rdquo; Urbaszewski said, &ldquo;or put it in prevention?&rdquo;</p><p>California already has its own tailpipe standards. While 12 states have adopted California&rsquo;s higher bar, Illinois is among the majority who follow the national standard that currently allows for more smog.</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about the environment. Follow him on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>.</em></p><p><a href="https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=2&amp;cad=rja&amp;ved=0CD4QFjAB&amp;url=https%3A%2F%2Fdata.cityofchicago.org%2FHealth-Human-Services%2FPublic-Health-Statistics-Asthma-hospitalizations-i%2Fvazh-t57q%2Fwidget_preview%3Fwidth%3D500%26height%3D425%26variation%3D3q3f-6823&amp;ei=oLuoUYHZCKTgyQGC2YCoAw&amp;usg=AFQjCNGAXsAqrYOcH6IZ61w99DGpxO26gA&amp;sig2=Y2eFbNgvbwUQ89ZGO0yrHg&amp;bvm=bv.47244034,d.aWc" target="_blank">The city&#39;s open data initiative has logged asthma hospitalizations 2000-2011</a>:</p><div><p style="margin-bottom:3px"><a href="https://data.cityofchicago.org/Health-Human-Services/Public-Health-Statistics-Asthma-hospitalizations-i/vazh-t57q" style="font-size:12px;font-weight:bold;text-decoration:none;color:#333333;font-family:arial;" target="_blank">Public Health Statistics - Asthma hospitalizations in Chicago, by year, 2000 - 2011</a></p><iframe frameborder="0" height="425px" scrolling="no" src="https://data.cityofchicago.org/w/vazh-t57q/3q3f-6823?cur=0HltekusREY&amp;from=CtTq1Df6F7U" title="Public Health Statistics - Asthma hospitalizations in Chicago, by year, 2000 - 2011" width="610px">&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;a data-cke-saved-href=&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;https://data.cityofchicago.org/Health-Human-Services/Public-Health-Statistics-Asthma-hospitalizations-i/vazh-t57q&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot; href=&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;https://data.cityofchicago.org/Health-Human-Services/Public-Health-Statistics-Asthma-hospitalizations-i/vazh-t57q&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot; title=&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;Public Health Statistics - Asthma hospitalizations in Chicago, by year, 2000 - 2011&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot; target=&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;_blank&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;Public Health Statistics - Asthma hospitalizations in Chicago, by year, 2000 - 2011&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;</iframe><p><a href="http://www.socrata.com/" target="_blank">Powered by Socrata</a></p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 31 May 2013 11:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/weary-high-chicago-asthma-rates-some-lobby-washington-107461 New flag program to promote air quality in the Chicago area http://www.wbez.org/news/new-flag-program-promote-air-quality-chicago-area-106911 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F90211484&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7223_IMG_1509-scr.jpg" style="height: 240px; width: 375px; float: left;" title="Kids from the Chicago Academy for Global Citizenship hold the color-coded flags to indicate air quality (IEPA)." />An airplane pulled out of Midway and over the Chicago Academy for Global Citizenship while a group of kids raised a yellow flag Tuesday to signify that the air is moderately clean, but not perfect. The flag-raising signaled the launch of a program created by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and Illinois Partners for Clean Air to involve school kids in pollution monitoring.</p><p>The IEPA already monitors and color-codes a <a href="http://www.epa.state.il.us/air/aqi/">daily air quality index</a> for the greater Chicago area, but IEPA director Lisa Bonnett says she wants to involve the public more closely in air quality monitoring.</p><p>&ldquo;All of us can do our part,&rdquo; Bonnett said, &ldquo;and that&rsquo;s how you really get those improvements to air quality.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Although air pollution in the Chicago area has decreased in recent decades, Cook County this year got <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/cook-countys-air-quality-gets-f-american-lung-association-106828">a failing grade for air quality from the American Lung Association</a>. Meanwhile, says Bonnett, standards for air pollutants have been lowered as regulators discover or confirm new health risks from poor air quality.</p><p>Weather is the primary cause of daily fluctuations in air quality; hot, stagnant summer days mean Chicago&rsquo;s smog sticks around in the area, and the direction of the wind or a storm can also lead to higher-air pollution days.</p><p>&ldquo;The weather&rsquo;s been a challenge over the last few years,&rdquo; said Bonnett, referring to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/what%E2%80%99s-causing-record-low-levels-lake-michigan-105262">drought</a>, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/flooding-drought-year-106171">flooding </a>and heat waves that have all stricken the region lately.</p><p>IEPA says Chicagoans can contribute to cleaner air over the long term by taking public transportation and switching to energy-efficient lighting and appliance options. And the USEPA is taking public comments on a <a href="http://www.epa.gov/otaq/tier3.htm">new proposed regulation</a> for vehicle emissions that would hold the whole country to a much tighter standard beginning in 2017.</p><p>For now, any school in the greater Chicago area can request air quality flags.</p><p><em>Lewis Wallace is a Pritzker Journalism Fellow at WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/lewispants">@lewispants</a></em>.</p><p><strong>Map of commercial and industrial air pollution sources</strong></p><p><a name="map"></a>A USEPA map provides data from 2008 on yearly emissions of six key pollutants from major contributors like landfills, airports and manufacturing plants. Find out more about air pollution in your area on <a href="http://www.epa.gov/air/emissions/where.htm">USEPA&#39;s website</a>.</p><div id="map-canvas">&nbsp;</div></p> Tue, 30 Apr 2013 16:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/new-flag-program-promote-air-quality-chicago-area-106911 Obama withdraws proposed regulation on smog http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-02/obama-withdraws-proposed-regulation-smog-91461 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-02/LA smog.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Saying that "reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover" prompted his administration to rethink, President Obama just announced that he's withdrawing proposed regulations that would have tightened government smog standards in a bid to protect the ozone.</p><p>"I want to be clear: my commitment and the commitment of my administration to protecting public health and the environment is unwavering," <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/09/02/statement-president-ozone-national-ambient-air-quality-standards">the president added in a statement posted on the White House website</a>.</p><p>But in addition to the negative effect that new regulations might have on the economy, Obama said, "work is already underway to update a 2006 review of the science that will result in the reconsideration of the ozone standard in 2013. Ultimately, I did not support asking state and local governments to begin implementing a new standard that will soon be reconsidered."</p><p>The <a href="http://www.npr.org/2011/09/02/140142301/obama-reverses-course-on-controversial-smog-rules?live=1" target="_blank">Associated Press notes that</a>:</p><p>&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p>&nbsp;</p><p>"The smog standard was among the Obama administration regulations that House Republicans said this week they would try to block this fall. The move is sure to raise the ire of environmentalists, a core Obama constituency."</p><p>&nbsp;</p></blockquote><p>&nbsp;</p><p>In a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, the Office of Management and Budget says the proposed rule "would be problematic in view of the fact that a new assessment, and potentially new standards, will be developed in the relatively near future."</p><p>And, adds OMB regulator affairs Administrator Cass Sunstein, "the president has instructed me to give careful scrutiny to all regulations that impose significant costs on the private sector or on state, local or tribal governments."</p><div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio.</div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 02 Sep 2011 10:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-02/obama-withdraws-proposed-regulation-smog-91461