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Indoor and Outdoor Pollutants in Chicago

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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!

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