Chicago records worst unhealthy air quality streak in 10 years over last 12 days, worse than Los Angeles

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago air quality has carried moderate or unhealthy risks for the majority of the last 12 days, the longest streak in a decade.

That unhealthy air could make it harder for vulnerable people with COVID-19 to breathe.

Chicago air has been in worse shape than Los Angeles for more than a week. Coupled with COVID-19, experts and advocates said the damage will hit black and brown communities hardest.

The stagnant air, summertime heat, and sun mix with exhaust and emissions on the ground, making the air in Chicago less healthy to breathe.

"You need healthy lungs to fight against the virus and if your lungs are already impacted because of air pollution, yes you're more concerned and more sensitive to the pandemic," said Angela Tin, senior director at the American Lung Association National.

Chicago has had its longest streak of high-pollution days in more than 10 years, even beating out smoggy Los Angeles for nine of the last 12 days with air moderate, unhealthy or unhealthy for sensitive groups.



That has environmental advocates worried in Chicago's predominantly Latino Little Village neighborhood.

"Many of our residents already have problems with respiratory issues because of the ongoing industry that is operating in our neighborhood," said Little Village Environmental Justice Organization community organizers Edith Tovar.

There are also thousands of COVID-19 cases in Little Village already. Even Tovar's own family is impacted, with a brother recovering from the coronavirus and a sister with asthma.

"We're just adding a lot more stress to our public health," she said.

Cooler weather and reducing emissions can help disperse the ozone near the ground, and so can a breeze, but many remain vulnerable.

"Those who live in inner cities, that are close to the highway, the train station, the bus station, they don't have anywhere to go," Tin said.

The American Lung association said to stay inside if it's possible on air quality alert days.
Copyright © 2020 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.