President Barack Obama’s hometown of Chicago, Illinois, has been added to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) list of areas with too much lead in the air.
Along with Arecibo, Puerto Rico; Belding, Michigan; Saline, Kansas; and Pottawattamie, Iowa; the Windy City was designated a “nonattainment area” for violating the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for airborne lead particles.
Such particles are considered harmful because they can be ingested through the air, soil and water. High concentrations of lead in the blood can damage the central nervous system, heart-lung function, the immune system and red blood cells, according to health experts.
The specific Chicago area in question is the Pilsen neighborhood, bounded by Roosevelt Rd. to the north, the Dan Ryan Expressway to the east, the Stevenson Expressway to the south, and Damen Ave. to the west. The main sources of the lead pollution are the 108-year-old coal-burning Fisk Power Generation Station and the 123-year-old H. Kramer and Co. brass and copper ingot foundry. Both sites are uncomfortably close to Manuel Perez Jr. Elementary School and a high school, the Benito Juarez Community Academy.
Chicago and the other cities have until June 2013 to submit cleanup plans to the EPA. Those plans could mean tougher air-pollution controls on local industries.