August 02, 2005

Illinois Having a Bad Air Day (Again)

The heat and sunshine of our latest heat wave are driving up smog levels to heights not often seen in the last few years in Illinois, and as a result health warnings have been issued for "sensitive populations."

According to Illinois EPA, not only most of the Chicago area, but also Metro East, Champaign-Urbana, Springfield, Bloomington-Normal, Decatur are forecast to have "unhealthy" air Wednesday. Pollution levels will cause "Increased likelihood of respiratory symptoms and breathing discomfort in sensitive groups." The state recommends "Active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should limit prolonged outdoor activity."

There are basically two types of pollution of particular concern on these dog days. Smog, or ozone, is a gas that forms when many different types of pollution cook in sunlight. In unhealthy concentrations, it can cause something like sunburn on the inside of your lungs, and cause asthma attacks and other health problems. Particulate matter refers to fine particles of pollution that get past our bodies defenses and lodge deep in our lungs. These also cause respiratory problems and even death on days like today. For instance, particulate pollution from Illinois' coal-burning power plants has been linked to 1350 deaths every year in Illinois.

Unfortunately pollution levels climb with the temperatures. In addition to the heat and sunlight creating ideal conditions for smog formation, our coal-burning power plants are often generating at peak capacity on days like to day to meet electricity demand. Since these plants don't have scrubbers or other modern pollution controls, a hot day that is simply uncomfortable for most of us can be deadly for many.

You can now see maps online that show current pollution levels, and time-lapse animation that shows how and where they grow during the course of the day.

You can see the daily map for ozone (smog) at:

And for particulate matter at:

IEPA's daily conditions & forecast are at:

1 comment:

Julie Peterson said...

This occurred during these air pollution action days. Could they choose a worse day to spray?

Monday, August 1, 2005

The city blankets the people with pesticides without debate, without notice.

Below is a letter to the editor written by one of our organizers:

"I just received an automated call to let me know that my neighborhood will
be sprayed with pesticide Monday night. I should bring in any pets,
children's toys, close my windows, and stay inside, but that the pesticide
is approved by the EPA. I am concerned. We remember DDT. We know that many
pesticides are approved by the EPA and later found to cancer-causing. Many
chemicals approved in the U.S. are considered to be carcinogens by other
countries with more strict testing standards. We wonder why we have so much
cancer, autism and other health issues occur, but continue to expose
ourselves, our children, and pregnant women to chemicals such as this.

Do you want them to spray this chemical on your vegetable garden? Do you want this chemical tracked into your home or on the hands of you or your children
as they play in the grass the next day?

We all appreciate the good work of the Department of Health and the real
concern that West Nile may become a larger threat, however, let us not blanket our city with chemicals without public debate. Shouldn't we worry about the effects of the pesticide on all the
people, already struggling with the poor air quality of these 90 degree days
and nights, those who don't get the message, and that, still, 50 years after DDT, our city officials still haven't learned the lesson that our high school students know. "

Hopefully, we can change the process so in the future, our fears of west nile don't make us lose our senses and douse our city with unidentified chemicals without debate or notice.

Please contact the media, your alderman, and talk about it.

For more information: