Trucks’ Heavy Health Footprint in Illinois

Trucks’ Heavy Health Footprint in Illinois

Transportation produces nearly a third of Illinois’s greenhouse gas emissions. Researchers have linked diesel emissions with low birth weights, respiratory illness, and heart disease.

Nearly 2 million Illinois residents — disproportionately minorities or those below the federal poverty line — live near 2,400 truck warehouses, according to a recent Environmental Defense Fund study. That includes 138,000 children under age 5, who are at particular risk for asthma.

“It is imperative that these communities are prioritized with policies that transition the vehicles driving in and out of those facilities — and idling in neighborhoods — to zero-emission alternatives,” says Larissa Koehler, senior attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

Dangerous diesel emissions include nitrogen dioxide, soot, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, and carbon monoxide. The combination of traffic pollution and wildfire smoke that plagued Chicago this summer exacerbated health conditions for thousands of people. 

But maybe every aluminum truck body has a silver lining: The EDF also reported in June that Illinois is taking important steps towards a cleaner truck fleet.

A 2022 report from the National Resources Defense Council suggested electrifying Illinois’ truck fleet would eliminate toxic emissions and lead to public health benefits.

Originally published in the Fall/Winter 2023 print issue.