Showing posts with label Battle in the Barrio. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Battle in the Barrio. Show all posts

Friday, September 9, 2011

Hopelessness and Hope in Pilsen - BATTLE IN THE BARRIO part 4/4

An anti-Fisk poster hung by activists in a Pilsen Thrift store.
“And every morning was a requiem
or the feast day of a martyr -
the priest in black or red,
cortege of traffic, headlights
funneling through incense
under viaducts. While my surplice
settled around me like smoke
my father rode the blue spark
of a streetcar to the foundry
where, in the dark mornings,
the cracks of carbonized windows
flowed with the blood of stained glass.”

- Excerpt from “Autobiography,” a poem by Stuart Dybek, a Pilsen native and a 2007 recipient of the MacArthur “genius grant.”
NOTE: The following is the last in a series of four stories about the environmental and health impact of coal fired power plants on densely-populated, low income Chicago communities. It's called "Battle in the Barrio: the Struggle in Chicago's Pilsen Neighborhood Against Pollution." The series is a journalistic project that culminated in a master's thesis for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Part One: Four Sisters, One Rare Disorder
Part Two: Old Problems, New Attention

Part Three: The People VS the Bottom Line

Part Four: Hopelessness and Hope in Pilsen

Visualization - Is there injustice in Pilsen?
Visualization - Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood struggles with pollution
South-side children have greatest exposure to lead in Chicago, health department data shows

If you have the time, Maria Torres has stories.

Since she became a community organizer a decade ago, helping gather signatures for petitions and lately rallying support for the Clean Power Ordinance, she’s collected quite a few.

Mostly, they involve people who’ve suddenly come down with asthma, respiratory illnesses, rare forms of cancer, lupus and other medical abnormalities.

“I have a family that lives right in front of the Perez school,” she said. “Her son was just diagnosed with asthma, and has to use an inhaler. And he’s real little. You feel for them, because they tell you how hard it is for her son to use the inhaler. It’s really hard for him because he’s a little kid and he doesn’t know how to. He just developed it, and didn’t have it before. I feel for them, I really feel for them. And it scares me.”

In addition to the verb “scares,” as in, “it scares me,” and “freaks,” as in “it freaks me out,” she frequently uses the adjectives “spooky” and “weird” to describe the magnitude of health problems she’s heard of while knocking on doors as a community organizer in Pilsen.
There’s the story she heard about an 80-year old woman, who lives on Morgan between 18th and 19th streets, not far from the Fisk plant, and got a routine X-ray for breathing problems.

The doctors asked the woman’s daughter, who took her mother in to be examined, if the mother was a regular smoker.

“She’s never smoked a day in her life,” Torres said. “But her lungs were all black.”

Thursday, September 8, 2011

South-side children have greatest exposure to lead in Chicago, health department data shows

This interactive heat map, compiled using Chicago Department of Public Health data, GIS files, and Google Fusion, shows where Children with the highest rates elevated blood lead levels in Chicago live. Data is from 2010.

Chicago Department of Public Health data shows that children in the poorer, industrialized south of Chicago are more likely to have dangerous levels of lead in their bodies than children in more affluent neighborhoods.

The data, obtained by a FOIA request from the health department, shows the levels of lead the agency found in children 17 and under in the city of Chicago. Most children tested for lead, however, were under 6 years old.

“An EBL or elevated blood lead level, is defined… as the child’s highest venous test with a result of 6 or more micrograms lead (Pb) per deciliter blood,” the health department wrote.

According to the EPA, there is no safe level for lead in the human bloodstream. At 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood, children can develop symptoms such as “lowered intelligence, reading and learning disabilities, impaired hearing, reduced attention span, hyperactivity, and antisocial behavior.”

The most recent results are from 2010, but the file contains annual results back to 2005. They were compiled with the help of an epidemiologist in the department.

“Multiple blood lead tests were determined using an algorithm that matches children by name, date of birth and sex, while allowing for common typographical and data entry (eg, reversing first and last name) errors for blood lead tests conducted within a calendar year,” the health department wrote.

In the interactive heat map at the top of the post shows the rate at which children in each of Chicago’s 77 communities reported elevated levels of lead.

The Englewood community has the highest EBL rate, where 9.15 percent of the children who were tested for lead came back with a positive EBL. Neighborhoods in the north end of Chicago had EBL rates between 0.8 percent and 3.31 percent.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Visualization - Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood struggles with pollution

The Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago faces unique challenges in terms of environment and health. It retains some of its manufacturing base from when it was an industrial center for Chicago, yet it is primarily residential and now houses a large Latino population. The combination of a dense population and high emissions mean that pollution for the neighborhood is a major concern, as the above visualization demonstrates.

This visualization is part of the series "The Battle in the Barrio: The Struggle in Chicago's Pilsen Neighborhood Against Pollution." Part one, "Four sisters, one rare disorder," is here. And part two, "Old problems, new attention," is here.