ARCO Flight Tracks

February, 1997
Vol. 4, Issue 1

Your source for information concerning events and issues involving O'Hare Airport

Your Voice Is Heard

How Bad is the Air We Breathe?

On December 17, 1996, ARCO told the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) just how bad the air, water and ground pollution is at O’Hare. O’Hare overcrowding grew into a major health problem. The problem is getting worse with each new flight.

Conservatively, over one million people suffer because of O’Hare pollution. Heavily polluted areas from O’Hare emissions begin about 50 miles from the airport. It gets progressively worse as you get closer. Anyone can check the side of their house. If there is a sticky black substance, it is probably jet fuel deposits.

Many of the compounds emitted from O’Hare aircraft emissions cause CANCER. According to a US-EPA study of Midway Airport, airplane engines alone were responsible for 10.5% of the cancer risks in the Southwest metro region. With three times the amount of flights and much larger aircraft at O’Hare, we are at much greater risk.

Other O’Hare-produced toxic pollutants are highly suspected to cause many other health conditions like birth defects, respiratory illnesses, liver damage, heart diseases and a host more.

Aviation emissions are transmitted by a spray that is dispersed overhead, that cannot be filtered out by our lungs. It is directly transmitted into our blood stream. The mist is sticky, attaches to vegetation and thus is also ingested.

All interests at O’Hare, including the FAA, must be responsible to the community. The FAA’s mandates are air safety and the economic viability of the air transport industry. People’s health is not of high importance when compared to industry profits.

ARCO told IEPA officials, “By the airlines filing for separate permit releases, O’Hare is piece-mealing their pollution permits”, stated ARCO Director Jack Saporito. “It does not show the true total of all emissions. All facilities including air and ground transportation, hotels, etc. at O’Hare are part of total entity and the cause of the pollution. Even the surrounding expressway and arterial congestion must be included like at other airports.”

Lastly, more flights in an already over-taxed system just mean more unacceptable pollution. “Enough is enough!”

ARCO Presents NRDC and ACS Views to IEPA

At the December 17, 1996 IEPA meeting, ARCO also represented the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the American Cancer Society (ACS). In separate presentations, Director Saporito spoke for the NRDC, a national, nonprofit environmental organization with more than 300,000 members nationwide.

The NRDC urged IEPA to consider the issue of aggregate emissions from arriving and departing aircraft at O’Hare as part of its overall strategy to meet Clean Air Act ozone requirements. NRDC’s recent report, Flying Off Course: Environmental Impacts of America’s Airports, shows that these emissions create as much regional volatile organic compounds (VOC) and nitrogen oxides (NO,) as nearby power plants, steel mills, refineries, or incinerators. By addressing sources such as boilers at airports, and disregarding the much more significant impact of emissions from aircraft, IEPA is allowing an untapped niche of pollution reduction to fall through the cracks.

Flying Off Course also contains recommendations for reducing these emissions at airports. For example, airports can establish a set of differential landing fees in order to encourage airlines to use their least-polluting planes.

ARCO’s Medical Director Paula Cowan, MD, Assistant Professor of Family Medicine, Univ. of Illinois at Chicago spoke on behalf of the American Cancer Society. The Society supports legislation designed to reduce the exposure of environmental carcinogens.

The Society believes that all practical steps must be taken to protect the environment, particularly the air we breathe from pollution.

Dr. Cowan pointed out that the young, elderly and individuals with cardiac and respiratory diseases, and those whose jobs expose them to additional hazards suffer more than healthy adults. Healthy adults are at considerable risk of cancer, leukemia, blood disorders, reproductive hazards as well as eye, sinus and lung problems.

On behalf of ARCO, ACS & NRDC, Directors Saporito and Dr. Cowan pleaded the following to the IEPA.

Bits and Pieces...


-Media Quips and Quotes...

“If these types of life decaying jobs are what O’Hare expansion supporters are always supporting, I say, ‘Why don’t you try enjoying life on a respirator and Black-Lung Benefits?’” John S. Sonin, O’Hare Warehouse worker - Jan. 24, 1997, Letter to ed., Arlington Heights Journal.

“Our residents breathe and smell these toxic pollutants and see its residue coat their homes and cars.” - US Rep. Henry J. Hyde, Dec. 18, 1996, Chicago Sun-Times.

“We’re very concerned little pieces of O’Hare are being evaluated without looking at their overall effects on the community.” - Joe Karaganis, attorney for the Suburban O’Hare Commission, Dec. 14, 1996, Daily Herald.

“Bad air days are becoming a matter of course in his community.” - Park Ridge Mayor, Ronald Wietecha, Dec. 26, 1996, Pioneer Press.

“O’Hare is not subjected to the same scrutiny and does not have to follow the same environmental rules that other industries must,” ARCO Director Jack Saporito. - Dec. 19, 1996, Arlington Heights Journal.

When IEPA officials said the Federal Government, rather than the IEPA, has control over aircraft emissions; ARCO medical director Dr. Paula Cowan responded “I can’t believe the law precludes you from looking at the big picture.” - Dec. 18, 1996, Chicago Sun-Times.

“It is amazing and appalling that neither the state nor the federal EPA has a program to reduce and control O’Hare’s toxic emissions to health protective levels.” - US Rep. Henry J. Hyde, Dec. 20, 1996, Mt. Prospect Journal.


Here’s the Facts...

To put this in perspective, the amount of pollution produced by a single two minute 747 take-off is equal to operating over two-million lawnmowers for 20 minutes. That is four states’ worth of lawnmowers. Or, a single DC-10 takeoff’s pollution is equal to 21,530 cars driving one mile at 30 M.P.H.


Did You Know?

“One aircraft take-off burns up tens of thousands of pounds of fuel.”

“A local physicist remarked at a recent town meeting, that the pollution levels from one 747 take-off is somewhat similar to burning down the local gas station and flying it overhead.” --CASE, Seattle-Tacoma, WA.


IEPA Results.

At the Dec. IEPA meeting, Park Ridge obtained a commitment for the IEPA to monitor air quality, down-wind. ARCO pointed out to IEPA, the worst concentration is actually in communities northwest and southwest of the airport, due to the amount of flights and prevailing winds. (This area extends well into other counties such as Lake.) IEPA officials requested that ARCO suggest sites for study.

ARCO suggested that a monitor be located on the airport property, to protect airport workers. Citing the need for an in depth study to determine specifications as to the number of monitors and exact position for others, ARCO requested that IEPA commission a study to either Park Ridge, or the Suburban O’Hare Commission because they have the resources and, are the closest and most affected by O’Hare pollution.


Just the Facts... (editorial)

When presented with the facts, major airline execs are now saying that “We are trying to close O’Hare.” That is absurd! Does someone smell something fishy? Is someone trying to maneuver again, for protective legislation to further their profits?


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Note: ARCO Flight Tracks is published by the Alliance of Residents Concerning O'Hare, Inc. If you would like to become a member, or recieve our newsletter, call, or write to the address below. Annual membership is only $10.00 per household. Comments and questions should be sent to:

ARCO, Inc.
PO Box 1702
Arlington Heights, IL 60006-1702 

Phone: 630/415-3370



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