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ASK A GEEK: Is climate change affecting my breathing?

Apr 22, 2019


Dear BreathingGeek,
Earth Day’s coming soon. What’s the link between air pollution, climate change and lung disease? Any tips for someone who’s trying to do a little better at going “green”?
– Eco-Curious in Essex

Dear ECiE,

According to Health Canada, roughly 14,000 Canadians are dying annually from causes attributed to air pollution from human sources in North America. The number climbs each year. In scientific terms, something’s up.

Stay strong, David Suzuki. Change is coming (and we’ll help)

The air outside can be affected by smog, vehicles, industrial activities, or natural events such as forest fires (more on that in a minute). Even if you don’t have lung disease, air pollution affects everyone – in cities, in the ‘burbs, in rural communities and everywhere in between – since pollutants can travel across large distances. So from Kenora to Cornwall, this is a province-wide issue.

Climate change

So by now you know that air quality has the potential to affect your health. But how is climate change bullying your breath? Well ECiE, extreme weather events have been happening more often due to climate change. Here are some examples of changes happening in Ontario (and around the world), and their potential outcomes:

  • More rain and snow – flooding and mould growth (a big potential trigger for people with lung disease)
  • New species of plants – new types of pollen (at worst, a dangerous trigger for someone with lung disease – and at best, maybe just an – ACHOO! – annoyance to seasonal allergy sufferers)
  • Extreme temperatures – anyone who’s ever had to bundle up to protect their lungs  from frosty air or move their workouts indoors due to oppressive heat knows that extreme highs ‘n lows can get dangerous if they flare your condition up
  • More forest fires – and since we’ve just learned that pollutants can travel mega distances, it’s easy to see how smoke particles can affect the breathing of people far away from the blaze.

What can we do to protect our lungs?

  • Keep those airways smoke free – be it smoke from tobacco, cannabis, or even woodsmoke from your fireplace or outdoor pit.
  • Check the Air Quality Health Index before your venture outdoors and adjust your activities accordingly
  • Avoid exercising near high traffic areas, and exercise indoors on day’s when the air quality is poor.
  • Walk, bike, carpool, transit – think outside the car. when possible!

What can we do to protect the environment?

Good news – all of the measures outlined above protect the environment, so they’re good for mother earth, too.

 

Coincidence? Maybe, but let’s just appreciate the beauty anyway.

 

Live long and prosper,

BreathingGeek


Have a question for our resident BreathingGeek? Email kallen@lungontario.ca, or click here to access our Lung Health Info Line (phone or live chat), where you can speak directly to a Certified Respiratory Educator. It’s free and confidential.