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AReCO in the News



Date: May 06, 2004

Copyright 2004 Daily Herald, Paddock Publications, Inc.


O'Hare expansion foes demand closer look at air pollution


O'Hare expansion opponents want the state to take a closer look at airplane pollution in light of a recent study saying the Chicago region is an unhealthy place to breathe.

The Alliance of Residents Concerning O'Hare, an Arlington Heights-based not-for-profit group, is petitioning the state to look at the amount of particle pollution caused by airplanes. The microscopic soot causes asthma, cancer, strokes and heart attacks.

It comes from coal-burning power plants and diesel fuel from school buses, trucks and to a lesser extent airplanes. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is in the midst of a statewide inventory of where the pollution is coming from.

Jack Saporito, executive director of the alliance, wants the state to put a cap on the amount of emissions allowed in the area around and above O'Hare International, Midway, DuPage and Palwaukee airports.

Similar emission zones are often drawn over industrial areas to control overall pollution levels.

Saporito sent a letter to state leaders this week saying such a "bubble" should be in place before any airport expansions were undertaken.

A report released last week by the American Lung Association found Illinois to have the 12th-highest daily levels of the pollution in the nation. Cook, DuPage and Lake counties failed to meet the minimal U.S. Environmental Protection Agency safety levels for the most susceptible populations - children, senior citizens and the ill.

The report did not dwell on airline pollution because much of it comes from international flights, which the state can't regulate, said Brian Urbaszewski, lung association director of environmental health.

Jet fuel also produces less of the cancer-causing toxins than coal plants or trucks, he added.

But that doesn't mean airplanes and the truck traffic that typically goes with them, aren't hazardous to your health.

"It is good that someone is asking these questions because you can't say O'Hare is not responsible for part of the problem or Midway for that matter," Urbaszewski said. "I just don't know how much."

Urbaszewski said it would be difficult to isolate and control all of the emissions at O'Hare and suggested it would be better for Saporito to focus on controlling emissions from construction vehicles used in runway expansions. Construction equipment typically produces more toxic fumes than diesel trucks or buses.