Chicago Reporter Dirty Secrets

Well, we know that sustainability is a complicated thing.  As we work to find more efficient ways to run our economy, which also put out less CO2, we need to also consider the wide ranging impacts that our decisions may have.  There are many discussions going on about moving to wider use of rail to get tractor/trailers off of our roads.  But, the rail lines that snake across Chicago-land have an impact on our health.  I wanted to pass along this Chicago Reporter story, Dirty Secret, which dives into the health issues related to rail travel.  Here’s a quote:

Residents near rail yards would also be expected to suffer asthma attacks and other respiratory and cardiac disease— and premature death—at a higher rate. L. Bruce Hill, a senior scientist for the national advocacy group Clean Air Task Force, said cardiac disease is an even bigger concern than cancer, since particles from the exhaust can get into the blood stream and cause inflammation. “There’s no safe limit for particles,” he said. “Particulate is the most hazardous common pollutant in the air, and diesel trains, buses and trucks really release it where you breathe it.”More than 37,000 rail cars move through the Chicago area each day, carrying a wide range of commodities including coal, gravel, cement, automobiles, oil, gas, lumber, fertilizer, paper, asphalt, metals, minerals and shipping containers stuffed with all manner of consumer goods. According to the CREATE initiative, a partnership between the city and state governments, Amtrak, Metra, and freight rail companies, demand for rail transport through Chicago is expected to double in the next 20 years.And the ill effects of such rail traffic are felt by nearby residents. The Reporter analysis shows that about 57,000 people— a majority of them minority—live within a half mile of Chicago’s 15 biggest “intermodal” rail yards, where shipping containers are transferred between trains and trucks or ships.

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