We’re Hiring at Indoor Science! Learn more about our Job Openings.

Indoor and Outdoor Pollutants in Chicago

chicago skyline; outdoor pollution

Living less than a half mile away from Lake Michigan in Chicago made the Lakefront Trail (LFT) effortlessly accessible. I could quickly warm up with a short walk or jog and almost instantly have access to the beautiful lake and a path designed specifically for pedestrians and bicyclists. The LFT lines the edges of the lake for 18 miles making it a very scenic and relaxing space for runners. Moving to a landlocked neighborhood on the west side of Chicago changed all of that.

Now, it is difficult to find a route that isn’t dotted with multiple stop lights or heavy traffic. The unveiling of The Bloomingdale Trail, also known as The 606, was the only glimmer of hope for this new west side resident. Unfortunately, the 2.7 mile distance was very underwhelming not to mention that the narrow 606 is often congested. Hanging above buildings, streets, busses, people and occasionally intersected above by an L train is an impressive work of engineering and planning, but it made me nostalgic for lake views, green grass, and cleaner air. Breathing in clouds of exhaust while running outdoors can be a runner’s high buzz kill, but luckily I can quickly escape it by going indoors, right?

Just as there are pollutants in the outdoor air, there are pollutants in the indoor air. Some of the indoor pollutants originate from the outdoors. Outdoor particulate matter, carbon monoxide and ozone can penetrate the outside of buildings and come in. Other pollutants such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), have their strongest sources indoors. The point is: you don’t escape air pollution once you go inside.

As a runner who IS overly concerned about his respiratory and cardiovascular health, I immediately noticed the increased emissions when changing neighborhoods. Who would have guessed that running in the City of Chicago would bring me so much awareness of pollution: indoors and out? Different neighborhoods can bring varying amenities, but with those changes also come different environmental challenges. It’s good to be aware of the surrounding outdoor air quality and possible indoor air quality contaminants. Perhaps now that the temperature is dropping, it may be time to hit the treadmill indoors. Although I’ll avoid the exhaust fumes and Chicago snow, I will still need to contend with the indoor air! If you are looking for someone to help assess your indoor air quality, our team is ready to assess your home!

Ian Cull

Ian Cull is a nationally recognized expert in the field of indoor air quality. He is the Chief Science Officer of Indoor Science, a company he started in 2004. He speaks around the world on air quality topics and is a training provider of the Indoor Air Quality Association. Mr. Cull is a Licensed Professional Engineer (PE) and Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH). His degree is in Environmental Engineering from the University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign. Mr. Cull has developed 50 air quality related courses for the IAQA University and is the author of the book, “Fundamentals of Mold Remediation”. In his words… “Besides being passionate about indoor air quality, I enjoy cycling, music, the Chicago Bulls, and having fun with my three kids.”