The Air We Breathe!
Saskatoon, June 8, 2005--If the water we drink and the food we eat should taste or smell as bad as the air we breathe, it would be of national concern and governments would put corrective measures into place as they did with Walkerton and œmad cow disease.
Contrary to drinking and eating, breathing is a reflex, it doesn't require conscious thought.Â Especially with respect to outdoor air, we have little individual control of the quality of air that we breathe. Outdoor air pollution comes from backyard and agricultural burning, our power plants, industries and vehicles.
Chronic exposure to pollutants can cause permanent damage to the lungs even after symptoms such as coughing or a sore throat disappear. The link between air quality and lung disease is obvious. Studies have shown an association between combustion by-products from traffic exhaust in and outside schools and decreased lung function, asthma, and wheezing or coughing in children (van Vliet 1997, Brunekreef 1997, Guo 1999, Hirsch 1999).
Lung diseases in Canada continue to have a substantial negative impact on the health care system.Â Respiratory disease ranked fourth in mortality costs in 1998 and ranked fourth in morbidity costs due to long-term disability. For long term disability, 69% of respiratory related costs are due to asthma and respiratory disease is the leading cause of short term disability.
The Canadian government has recently created new Canada Wide Standards for ground-level ozone and particulate matter.Â These provisions are a good start, but continuing reductions in air pollution from unnecessary burning, vehicles and industries must take place to protect people from these toxic exposures.Â A recent study by Health Canada estimated that 5,900 Canadians die each year from complications resulting from exposure to air pollution.
National Clean Air Day gives us the opportunity to focus attention on this often invisible threat to our health.Â It is important to realize that there are actions you can take to protect your health.Â You can make a difference to the amount of pollution in the air if you reduce your use of electricity at home or work and reduce vehicle fuel usage. Â Don't create pollution from backyard burning.Â Car pool or take public transit, use compact fluorescent light bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs, and use a clothes line instead of the dryer
As well, you can protect your own health even during a poor air quality day.Â Reduce your time spent outdoors or lower your level of activity.Â People with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes or heart disease should be particularly careful.Â Young children, whose lungs are still developing, should avoid air pollution.
As one in five Canadians suffers from respiratory diseases such as asthma, emphysema and lung cancer and an even greater number suffer from allergies, the importance of having good quality air cannot be underestimated.
On this National Clean Air Day, The Lung Association calls on the federal and provincial governments, industries, non-governmental organizations and individual citizens to consider the importance of clean air and to take increasing actions to protect this vital resource.
For further information contact:
Paul Van Loon
Vice President, Health Education