‘The Air We Breathe:’ How industry is polluting Cicero’s air

"The Air We Breathe" is a yearlong investigative project by two nonprofit newsrooms, the Cicero Independiente and MuckRock, who have been monitoring air pollution in Cicero. What we found: Cicero’s air quality is much worse than surrounding Cook County neighborhoods, and it’s worse than what the Environmental Protection Agency and pilot programs run by the city and Microsoft have routinely reported.

Poor air quality and pollution has been a persistent problem in Cicero and nearby Little Village for decades, with experts attributing it to Cicero’s century-long history of heavy industry, its residential density and a lack of parks and trees.

In March 2023, the Independiente partnered up with MuckRock to install air quality sensors on volunteers’ homes. These sensors are installed in three locations in Cicero: near 51st Court and 14th Street, 54th Court and 31st Street and 59th Avenue and 38th Street. Our sensor readings showed that Cicero’s air quality is markedly worse than places with other bustling industrial corridors in Chicagoland, such as the Lower West Side and Navy Pier.

The health effects of living in a place with decidedly poor air quality can be devastating and stretch across generations. Emissions from gas- and diesel-powered trains, trucks and machines include harmful pollutants: volatile organic materials, or VOM, which include cancer-causing compounds.

For more information on our project and to explore the data, check out the GitHub repository.

16 Articles

Black bars with the word For the Record underlined

For the Record: Appealing an unduly burdensome denial in Illinois

This week’s For the Record shares how reporters at MuckRock and the Cicero Independiente overcame rejection in their “Air We Breathe” series.

Read More

People looking inside a private meeting

The inside story on a billion-dollar chemical company’s fight to keep its secrets from the public

After the Cicero Independiente and MuckRock published investigative articles about air pollution and the chemicals company Koppers, it hired a public-relations firm to organize a secret, behind-the-scenes campaign to influence local officials.

Read More

People looking into a private meeting

La historia interna de la lucha de una empresa química multimillonaria por ocultar sus secretos al público

Después que Cicero Independiente y MuckRock publicaran artículos de investigación sobre la contaminación atmosférica y la empresa química Koppers, ésta contrató a una empresa de relaciones públicas para organizar una campaña secreta entre bastidores para influir a los funcionarios locales.

Read More

View all...