WBEZ | air quality http://www.wbez.org/tags/air-quality 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 Cook County's air quality gets an 'F' from the American Lung Association http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/cook-countys-air-quality-gets-f-american-lung-association-106828 <p><p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yooperann/5098058893/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chicago%20air.jpg" style="height: 458px; width: 610px;" title="(Courtesy Ann Fisher via Flickr)" /></a><br />Spring weather can be a breath of fresh air for many Chicagoans, but a foul forecast for air quality in Cook County is a reminder that high pollution and asthma rates persist in many of the nation&rsquo;s large urban areas.</p><p>The American Lung Association released its annual &ldquo;State of the Air&rdquo; report Wednesday, and while our air is cleaner than it was a decade ago, Cook County <a href="http://www.stateoftheair.org/2013/states/illinois/cook-17031.html">received Fs across the board</a>.</p><p>Compiling data from states, tribes and federal agencies, the ALA report ranked the nation&rsquo;s cities and counties according to their levels of ozone, year-round particle pollution and short-term particle pollution.</p><p>Chicago ranked 16&nbsp;in the nation for short-term particle pollution. Central and Southern Californian metros dominated the <a href="http://www.stateoftheair.org/2013/city-rankings/most-polluted-cities.html">report&rsquo;s &ldquo;Most Polluted Cities&rdquo; rankings across all three categories</a>.</p><p><a href="http://www.stateoftheair.org/2013/states/illinois/lake-17097.html">Lake County also failed</a>, but the ALA gave Bs to Kane, DuPage, McHenry and Will counties.</p><p>Four in 10 Americans (131.8 million people) live in counties that had unhealthy levels of either ozone or particle pollution between 2009 and 2011.</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/qa-kim-wasserman-little-villages-coal-crusader-106742">As the city shuts down coal plants</a> and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/does-electricity-aggregation-do-enough-renewable-energy-106760">cuts coal from its power supply</a>, future reports could give Cook County a sunnier outlook. But the region&rsquo;s high poverty rate means a minority of its residents shoulder a greater share of the burden.</p><p>&ldquo;No one should be surprised by the grade Cook Country was given, but we ought to be alarmed,&rdquo; said Matthew Siemer, program and development manager for <a href="http://mobilecarechicago.org/">the Mobile C.A.R.E. foundation</a>.</p><p>His&nbsp;group runs&nbsp;a mobile asthma clinic that treats poor and uninsured patients with respiratory problems.</p><p>&ldquo;Respiratory illnesses like asthma and COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease], which have been linked to poor air quality, affect 25 percent of low-income residents. These diseases are costly, debilitating, and can even fatal when they aren&rsquo;t regularly treated.&rdquo;</p><p>It&rsquo;s not the first time the area has flunked an ALA examination. In January the organization said <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/politics/study-gives-illinois-fs-tobacco-prevention-and-support-quitting-smoking-104978">Illinois needed to invest more to reduce tobacco consumption</a>. They gave the state Fs for tobacco prevention and support for smokers trying to quit. Cook County <a href="http://chicagoist.com/2012/04/26/cook_county_air_quality_gets_an_f.php">received an F in last year&#39;s &quot;State of the Air&quot; report, too</a>.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/cook-air-quality.jpg" title="The number of high-ozone days in Chicago has fallen over the years, but still exceeds safety standards. (Courtesy American Lung Association)" /></div></p> Wed, 24 Apr 2013 16:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/cook-countys-air-quality-gets-f-american-lung-association-106828 New Southeast Side power plant reignites air quality concerns http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-16/new-southeast-side-power-plant-reignites-air-quality-concerns-92068 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-September/2011-09-16/352250460_ee2f9e5565_b.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Residents of the Southeast Side have faced pollution from nearby Indiana coal plants. The decision to shut down an aging plant in the early part of 2011 brought hope for fresher air. But a new plant reignited concerns--and several Southeast Side community groups have since joined forces. Cheryl Johnson, CEO and president of<a href="http://www.peopleforcommunityrecovery.org/#%21page-3" target="_blank"> People for Community Recovery</a>, is part of the alliance. She spoke to <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> about the issues the new power plant raises on the Southeast Side.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 16 Sep 2011 13:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-16/new-southeast-side-power-plant-reignites-air-quality-concerns-92068 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 Fate of Chicago coal plants could hang on election http://www.wbez.org/story/air-quality/fate-chicago-coal-plants-could-hang-election <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Fisk Smokestack.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>New leadership in Chicago&rsquo;s City Hall could reopen some old fights, including a long-standing battle over two power plants: Crawford and Fisk. In spite of lawsuits, regulations and politicking, the coal-fired plants still churn out electricity, and pollution.</p><p>Now a local ordinance to force them to clean up or shut down is getting a fresh look from officials and candidates. They&rsquo;re holding an unofficial hearing in the City Council chambers today. But just what would happen if they succeed remains a big question mark.</p><p>WBEZ&rsquo;s Gabriel Spitzer spoke with host Melba Lara to explain why the outlook for coal in Chicago may be about to change. &nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 14 Feb 2011 17:35:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/air-quality/fate-chicago-coal-plants-could-hang-election