Week Five: Asthma, Environmental Health and Southeast Chicago’s Petcoke Problem

The SSP talks environment, business and asthma–an eye opening tour of Indiana oil refineries and the Southeast Chicago petcoke piles.

Summer Service Partnership

Breathing is so fundamental, we forget that it happens, until suddenly it doesn’t. Asthma attacks clamp down the airways, and air can no longer get through. Without oxygen, we can only live about three minutes. Asthma can kill.

Asthma is linked to poor air quality (triggering attacks) and a lack of access to health care (people unable to afford the expensive medications that can save their lives). Chicago’s rates of asthma deaths are twice that of the national average.  And some neighborhoods in Chicago have twice the number of asthma hospitalizations and deaths than the city as a whole.  One of the worst hit areas is Southeast Chicago (encompassing neighborhoods such as South Chicago, the East Side, Hedgewisch, Roseland, Pullman and more).


Up until the 1980s, the people living in the area accepted polluted air in exchange for jobs in the many steel mills operating in Chicago’s industrial corridor.  Then the…

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