Transport-Related Air Pollutants Account for the Majority of Harmful Carbon Emissions in Illinois


CHICAGO (April 22, 2020) – Today, on Earth Day, members of Illinois Clean Air Now (ICAN) are calling attention to the harmful effects of fossil fuel-powered motor vehicles on the environment and the health of our residents and urging Illinoisans to go electric to remedy the problem.


A recent study by Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health has also shown a link between local air pollution levels and higher COVID-19 mortality rates. There is a “large overlap” between COVID-19 deaths, the report notes: “The results of this paper suggest that long-term exposure to air pollution increases vulnerability to experiencing the most severe COVID-19 outcomes.”


Chicago is the third worst major city in the nation when it comes to childhood asthma caused by transportation pollution. Health issues caused by air pollution tend to disproportionately fall on low-income communities due to their proximity to major roadways and transportation hubs.


ICAN is calling on residents, businesses and communities across the state to make the switch to electric vehicles to reduce our state’s pollution problems.


“Now more than ever, it is vital for our state to make the switch to clean, healthy electric transportation,” said ICAN member Brian P. Urbaszewski, director of environmental health programs at Respiratory Health Association. “Too many residents in the most polluted areas of our state were already getting sick. And as of today, the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 continues to increase, with the majority of them coming from the Chicagoland area.”


Yesterday, the American Lung Association released their annual “State of the Air” report that revealed Chicago is now ranked the 16th most polluted city in the nation for ozone pollution, which is worse than last year’s report where the city was ranked 18th. This ranking is based on the number of unhealthy ozone days between 2016-2018.


“Illinoisans should be aware that we’re breathing more unhealthy air compared to last year’s report, mostly driven by vehicle emissions and extreme heat as a result of climate change, placing our health and lives at risk,” said ICAN member Angela Tin, a board member for the Chicago Area Clean Cities Coalition.


Beneficial electrification means partially—or fully—switching from technologies that use fossil fuel to those that use electricity, such as wind and solar energy in a way that benefits the environment and the end user. Electrification provides a pathway for Illinois to use its clean energy advantage to reduce harmful emissions, increase consumer savings, and mitigate the environmental, health and economic impacts of pollution.


“We are hopeful that when the Illinois legislature returns, they will work together to make significant changes in our state’s policies and pass clean energy legislation,” said ICAN member Harold Wimmer, President and CEO of the American Lung Association. “Individuals and businesses are becoming more aware of the harmful effects that fossil fuel-burning vehicles are having on our health and our environment. Now is the time to go electric as the health benefits are too great to ignore.”


Becoming a clean transportation state will result in cleaner air, technological innovation, economic development and consumer benefits—all while promoting a clean energy future for Illinois.