3—What Kind of Pollution Issues Affect Illinois? 54 Environmental Pathways
Particulate matter is small solid particles
produced by several types of sources includ-ing
power plants, wood burning stoves, leaf
burning, automobile exhausts, incinerators,
rock quarries, coal processing plants, farming
and roadways. Particulate matter can bother
people with respiratory diseases such as
asthma, and may irritate the eyes.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless,
odorless, poisonous gas from the
incomplete burning of fossil fuels
such as coal, oil and gas. Carbon
monoxide is produced chiefly by
automobiles but also by power
plants and other sources. When a
person inhales carbon monoxide,
the supply of oxygen to the body is
reduced; this can cause vision prob-lems
and headaches. Exposure to
large amounts of carbon monoxide
can stress the heart, affect the
brain, and even cause death.
Nitrogen dioxide is released into the
air from burning fossil fuels at high tempera-tures.
Some nitrogen dioxide occurs naturally
in the soil and atmosphere. High levels of
nitrogen dioxide can strain the heart and res-piratory
system and increase the chances for
breathing problems and illness.
Sulfur dioxide is formed when fossil fuels and
other substances that contain sulfur are
burned. Major sources of sulfur dioxide emis-sions
are factories and power plants that burn
coal and other fossil fuels. Many people expe-rience
eye, nose and lung problems when
they are exposed to high sulfur dioxide levels.
Perhaps the greatest success story in reduc-ing
air pollution concerns lead. Lead is classi-fied
as a heavy metal. Very small particles of
lead can be found in the air we breathe, in the
water we drink, in the food we eat, and in
some soils. Once taken into the body, it tends
to remain there. Lead in the air comes
primarily from the burning of leaded gasoline,
from iron smelters (places where ore is
melted to separate metal) and from car bat-tery
manufacturing plants. Health effects
related to lead poisoning (especially in young
children) include brain damage,
muscle cramping, and anemia.
Since a law was passed in 1975
that required cars and trucks to
use only unleaded fuel, the
amount of lead in air has
decreased by 85 percent.
Water Quality in Illinois
Illinois is rich in surface water
resources with approximately 900
rivers and streams having an
estimated total of 87,110 stream
miles and 91,400 inland lakes
and ponds, 3,256 of which have a
surface area of six acres or more.
About three-fourths of Illinois
inland lakes are man-made. The
state is bordered by three major rivers, the
Mississippi to the west, and the Ohio and
Wabash to the southeast. The other large
rivers in Illinois include the Rock, Fox, Des
Plaines, Kankakee, Illinois, Sangamon,
Kaskaskia and Big Muddy.
Nearly one million acres of Lake Michigan
stretch along Illinois’ northeastern border.
Lake Michigan is the third largest of the Great
Lakes and is the largest body of freshwater
entirely within the United States (portions of
the other four Great Lakes are on the U.S.-
The majority of Illinois’ lakes are artificial.
Illinois lakes serve many purposes such as
providing drinking water, flood control, indus-trial
plant cooling water, fish and wildlife habi-tat,
and opportunities for fishing and boating.
Overall, the quality
of air in Illinois is
year. The IEPA
continues to work
to change and
improve the meth-ods
of testing and
pollution in Illinois,
so that the air we
breathe is clean.
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