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Clean Air Ambassador: Ian Viteri

It wasn't until I was older that I learned about the pollution coming from the local coal-fired power plants and how it affects us.

When I was a kid, I had many friends and family with asthma, but I didn't think much of it at the time because it was so common in our community. I never really questioned why my cousin had to always carry his inhaler or why we couldn't just run around the park all day without having to take a break every ten minutes. It wasn't until I was older that I learned about the pollution coming from the local coal-fired power plants and how it affects us.

The largest local sources of pollution in our community, and the city of Chicago, are two ancient and outdated coal-fired power plants: the Fisk and Crawford stations, both owned by Midwest Generation. They are about 80 and 90 years old, respectively, and they haven't had any upgrades since the 1960's.

Now that I am more involved in these issues I meet all kinds of people who give us data and research and I now hear that Little Village is experiencing an increased rate of low birth-weight babies. I even see it in my friends as my generation reaches that age where we start to settle down. Within the past two years, two of my friends were pregnant and miscarried. Although we don't yet have the data to directly connect mercury emissions from the power plant with various birth complications, there has been research done connecting the asthma rates with the pollution coming from the plants.

The air pollution in our community is making us sick. We have high rates of asthma. Asthma vans—funded by Midwest generation—go to local grammar schools to treat children. These vans, which only go to schools that have at least 25 percent prevalence of asthma in their students, go to almost half the schools in our neighborhood.

To protect our right to breathe, our elected leaders and officials in Washington, D.C. should help ensure that old, outdated technology is replaced with newer and cleaner forms of technology. And they should look at cumulative impacts to environmental justice communities such as Little Village when they do new permitting. They should support local initiatives to control pollution, such as the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance and allow affected citizens to participate in lawsuits and government decisions.

Ambassador Group Affiliation: 
Little Village Environmental Justice Organization
Ambassador Profession: 
Community Organizer