In Midwestern cities like Chicago, diesel-heavy transportation infrastructure is highly concentrated. Vehicles like trains, trucks, boats, and construction equipment pollute the air in highways, railyards, ports, intermodal facilities, construction sites, and surrounding communities. Workers, commuters, and residents in areas with high concentrations of diesel pollution are most at risk of exposure – but, as an air pollutant, diesel exhaust knows no boundaries.

Diesel exhaust is a complex mixture composed of thousands of substances, including more than 40 toxic air pollutants. These microscopic particles can become lodged in the lungs, posing serious health risks, like contributing to premature death, cancer, heart disease, neurological problems, and respiratory illness. Diesel engines also emit a form of soot known as “black carbon,” a major contributor to climate change.

Technology exists to reduce diesel pollution over 90%, and stronger diesel pollution controls would provide jobs in the installation and manufacturing of that technology.

What is ELPC Doing?

  • ELPC works with community members, youth, and interns to conduct air quality monitoring across the city. We then analyze traffic, construction, and infrastructure data to identify areas of Chicago with higher rates of diesel activity and pollution, creating maps to highlight “hot-spots.” Find data for your neighborhood here and ways you can get involved and take action.
  • ELPC drives policies and support for clean cars and public transportation. These efforts benefit our communities by providing alternative options for travel, while cutting back on climate impact, and reducing diesel pollution.
  • When news surfaced that Volkswagen was cheating on their diesel vehicle emissions tests, ELPC analyzed the available uses of settlement money. We led the way in making sure a portion of those funds were carved out for electric school buses in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. The ubiquitous and oft-overlooked school bus is actually a vital mode of transit, serving more people than all other public transportation combined. Even more importantly, school buses serve a vulnerable population: our kids.

City of Chicago Idling Reduction Ordinance
City of Chicago Clean Diesel Construction Ordinance
Study on childhood asthma in Chicago (2014)

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