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EPA: The Train Soot At Union Station Is Dangerous

By Kate Shepherd in News on Nov 6, 2015 9:41PM

"Environmental scientist Anthony Ross is shown with the portable monitors being used in EPA’s air monitoring study at Union Station in Chicago." via the EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency has bad news for Union Station commuters. During testing this summer, the regulators discovered lung- and heart-damaging pollution in the clouds that hover between the diesel locomotives, according to a new EPA report.

Soot (also known as fine particulate matter or PM (2.5)) concentrations on the train platforms were anywhere from 23 to 96 percent higher than the concentrations recorded on nearby streets during the three-week study in June and July. The highest concentrations were found during rush hour, the south platforms had more soot than the north platforms and the levels were highest near locomotives.

Air filled with the pollutant is definitely not healthy for passengers or Amtrak and Metra employees.

"When inhaled, fine particles can reach deep into the lungs and may enter the bloodstream," according to the report. "Inhaling PM (2.5) can cause serious health effects --- especially for young people, the elderly and those with respiratory diseases such as asthma. Diesel exhaust from locomotives also contains carbon monoxide, benzene, formaldehyde, nitrogen oxides and other harmful pollutants."

The testing was conducted in response to a 2010 Tribune investigation into Metra riders' exposure to high amounts of diesel soot, according to the Tribune. EPA regulations usually don't address situations like commuting where people inhale very polluted area for short periods every day.

"The conditions at the station and on the train are still disgusting," Matthew Kempf, who rides the Metra from Schaumburg to Union Station, told the Tribune.