ELPC has been engaged in analyzing air pollution data in Chicago since 2013. In 2015, we began collecting our own data through the use of an air monitor stationed at over a dozen sites across the city on a rotating basis. Below we outline our previous and current campaigns to collect and analyze air pollution data from about a dozen sites across the city — hosting partnerships may still be available.
Diesel “Hot Spot” Analysis & Community Outreach
In 2013, ELPC analyzed traffic, construction and infrastructure data to identify areas of the city that may have higher rates of diesel activity and pollution. Intermodal facilities, major roads and highways, heavy commercial traffic, high-congestion areas, construction zones and vulnerable populations were all considered.
Our data produced the following map that identifies potential “hot spots” where there is an overlap between high diesel activity and vulnerable populations.
ELPC shared this map with community leaders in each of Chicago’s 50 wards. Our goal was to exchange information with on-the-ground advocates who are more familiar with their communities’ priorities and experiences but perhaps less familiar with the data ELPC was able to analyze. Those relationships were key to launching Stage 2 of our initiative.
Community Partnerships & Continuing Air Monitoring
The air monitor measures “particulate matter” — more commonly known as soot — measuring 2.5 micrometers, which is less than 1/30th the width of a single human hair. These particles are so small that they evade the body’s natural immune defenses, such as coughing and sneezing, and penetrate deep into the lungs and then the bloodstream. Children, older adults, and those with compromised immune systems are especially at risk from this toxic pollution.
Each of over a dozen locations hosted the monitor for 5 days. The locations were chosen based on the “hot spot” analysis ELPC conducted in 2013 as well as the partnerships we developed in sharing that analysis in Chicago’s 50 political wards. ELPC would set up the monitor and train the hosts to take readings from it daily. Later, we brought samples to the lab for further analysis. Our findings are still being studied. Special thanks to our hosts, which included:
- Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association
- Moms Clean Air Force member (Portage Park)
- Edgewater Chamber of Commerce & Phoenix Bean
- South Austin Council
- Shedd Aquarium
- 18th Street Development (Pilsen)
- Little Village Environmental Justice Organization
- University of Chicago Harris School
- South East Environmental Task Force
The data and samples were collected over a 6-month period from May to October, when the temperature tends to be within the monitor’s range. While EPA requires three years of data to take action, ELPC intends to use our findings to encourage real-time action. Stay tuned.