Now, there’s an effort to stop it.
"We are the essential workers that keep our economy working. Treat us with respect," one speaker said.
Emotions are running high for Pilsen residents, who are fighting for cleaner air.
An 8-year-old with asthma says her lungs are being destroyed by polluters.
"My asthma inhaler, I always have to carry, sometimes I can’t breathe," she said.
About 300 residents packed the pews at St. Paul Catholic Church on Wednesday, as Sims Metal applies for a new permit.
The recycling plant on South Paulina Street sits along the Chicago River near homes and schools. Longtime residents say their health is being compromised.
"We have one of the highest rates here specifically in Pilsen and Little Village with asthma related health issues, and it's time to put stop to it," one man said.
Region 5’s administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency attended the meeting. Residents are demanding a cumulative health impact study and for Sims Metal's permit not to be renewed.