The Air, Water and Soil Pollutants (AWSP) focus group will address exposures that may drive the high rates of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma, chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD) as well as a variety of cancers including lung and bronchial cancer found in Chicago.
While causes for disparities in incidence of these diseases across Chicago communities are multifactorial, disproportionate exposure to pollutants in air, water, soil and workplaces are likely contributors. Of the Top 50 polluters in Cook County in 2015, 60% are located near residences of AAs and Latinos. People living in the Chicago area face some of the nation’s highest risks for lung disease, cancers and other health problems linked to particulates, metals, and volatile organics from stationary and mobile sources of air pollution. Similarly, water quality in Chicago is a major concern. Members of this AWSP focus group have identified persistent organic pollutants (POPs), such as PCBs, dioxins, brominated flame-retardants and pharmaceuticals in Lake Michigan sediments and placentas of women who delivered babies at the UIC hospital. Other organic pollutants due to recycling, waste processing facilities, and petroleum coke (“pet coke”) are likewise situated in locations next to or within Chicago minority communities. Metal exposure investigations by AWSP members include studies on health effects of arsenic in water both locally and globally. Other industrial heavy metals under study (chromium, lead, manganese) are linked to declining renal function, hypertension, cancers, learning disabilities and other serious chronic health conditions.