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AReCO in the News


By Dawn Grodsky []

Clean Air Report

© Inside Washington Publishers

Date: March 13, 2003 -


A new General Accounting Office (GAO) report on airport emissions could bolster efforts by a group of residents living along the flight paths of Chicago's O'Hare airport to persuade EPA that it should install more monitors in areas downwind of airports to better understand the exposure rates of people living miles away from the tarmac.


The group, Alliance of Residents Concerning O'Hare (AReCO), wrote a Feb. 26 letter to EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman warning that EPA's denial of its earlier request for more monitors downwind of O'Hare “will continue to perpetuate significant harm to the health interest of several communities and millions of people.” Relevant documents are available on


The GAO, in a report released March 7 to the House Transportation & Infrastructure aviation subcommittee, is recommending that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) develop a strategic framework that addresses “the need for information on the extent and impact of emissions, identifies reduction options, establishes goals and time frames for achieving needed reductions, and defines the roles of government and industry in developing and implementing reduction programs.”

An AReCO source says GAO's recommendations could bolster its efforts. However, the source objects to the recommendation to put FAA in charge of the effort, alleging the agency is too closely tied to the airline industry. “It would be better served if an agency such as EPA or the [Centers for Disease Control & Prevention] or especially an independent body would lead the effort,” the source says.


AReCO has long expressed concerns about increased incidents of cancer in the area surrounding O'Hare and along its flight paths, and has been actively fighting the airport's planned expansion.


A study released in March 2002 found that overall cancer rates near the airport were 28 percent higher than the state average and that jet engine emissions at O'Hare were at least partially responsible. The study also found that in the 10-mile area around the airport there were demonstrated cancer “hot-spots” along flight paths 33 to 50 percent higher than the overall local area and up to 100 percent higher than the state average (Clean Air Report, April 11, 2002, p12).


Aircraft taking off and landing at O'Hare also emit more volatile organic compounds than every electric power plant in Illinois combined, AReCO's says, citing a study sponsored by the city of Chicago that found the airport is the largest hazardous and toxic polluter in the state. AReCO also claims that O'Hare far exceeds Clean Air Act limits for other criteria pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides.


The AReCO source says the monitors in place around O'Hare and most airports are insufficient in number, placement and the types of pollutants they track.

“[O]ur primary issue is with the extent and applicability of [EPA's denial of our request] as it is influenced by insufficient monitor locations in pollution prone and meteorological influenced areas. . . . We restate our request for expanded, continuous monitoring in these areas,” the AReCO letter says.


In November, EPA Region V Administrator Tom Skinner denied the group's original Sept. 6, 2002, request, writing, “EPA believes these monitors are acceptable and are properly characterizing ambient pollution levels in the communities surrounding O'Hare Airport.”

But AReCO says the monitors' placement is not adequate, particularly because aircraft emissions do not behave like those from a smokestack. AReCO wants EPA or the Illinois EPA to model all airport and aircraft operations and structure a program based on those results that would include long-term monitoring for 200 known airport-related toxics.


Such information could be crucial in requiring emissions reductions from aircraft and related airport ground equipment, and could help inform the public about potentially increased health risks of living not only near airports but along their flight paths, the source says. It could also help opponents of airport expansions and encourage efforts to build new airports in unpopulated areas.


Source: Clean Air Report via

Date: March 13, 2003

Issue: Vol. 14, No. 6

© Inside Washington Publishers