Chicago Announces Air Quality Reform Agenda

Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot has announced the city’s creation of an air quality reform agenda in an attempt to improve Chicago’s air quality while also promoting equitable economic growth.

“Time and time again, we’ve seen the failure of trickle-down economics, which has led us further and further away from creating a healthy, equitable, economic environment,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “This new initiative will work hand in glove with our ongoing commitment to ensure public safety by addressing the unequal burden of pollution that communities of color on our city’s South and West Sides face while also creating good, sustainable jobs in neighborhoods that need them the most.”

Using data from the city’s Department of Public Health Air Quality and Health Report, the new environmental policy will reform zoning related to industrial and polluting uses, establish an Environmental Equity Working Group, and further reform regulations related to air pollution.

While examining pollution levels and underlying social and health equity issues, the report noted that air quality issues are a citywide challenge, but that poor health outcomes are more prevalent in disadvantaged communities. This led to improvements in the city’s environmental inspection and enforcement by prioritizing disadvantaged communities and strengthening requirements for permitting and operation of polluting industries.

“These air quality reforms are a needed step to promote the greater health of Chicago’s residents,” said Department of Public Health commissioner, Allison Arwady, M.D. “As the Air Quality and Health Report makes clear, Chicago’s residents face inequitable burdens from air pollution based on neighborhood characteristics. By focusing on the communities at greatest risk, the changes described in the report will help prevent chronic disease and, ultimately, move us toward closing those inequities.”