This year, we celebrate Clean Air Day on Wednesday, June 4. Clean Air Day is a great opportunity to reflect on our individual, community and regional contributions to air quality, and to consider all that we can do to reduce our impact – individually and collectively. Despite the image of British Columbia as a vast, wild and natural place, we celebrate our clean air only one day a year.
Perhaps we take for granted that we can breathe easy, especially in the north with our wide open spaces and vast oxygen-producing forests. However, clean air is not something to take for granted. In fact, breathing is anything but easy for thousands of British Columbians. Poor air quality can worsen a pre-existing health issue such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, or a heart condition. This means that those who are already at-risk are those who will be most affected. Did you know that asthma is the cause of the highest number of emergency visits in children?
Each region has unique features that affect local air quality. The impact is specifically dependent on local weather patterns, geography, and types of emissions. For example, a windier location will have fewer air quality issues than one that experiences less air movement. However, some types of pollution are harmful even at low levels (specifically one called “particulate matter 2.5”). This type of pollution comes from sources such as vehicle emissions, wood-burning appliances, and burning fossil fuels.
So many of our everyday activities contribute to this problem, but the good news is that everyone has a role to play in the solution – both as individuals and collectively. For example, if we use wood heat, burning only dry, seasoned firewood can dramatically reduce the pollution from our homes. We can also reduce vehicle emissions by walking, cycling or using public transit. Small changes can have a huge impact on our local air quality – especially at certain times of the year!
For more information, visit northernhealth.ca.
About Kim Menounos
Kim is a healthy community environments lead, in public health protection, responsible for education and awareness of radon gas. She joined Northern Health in January 2011, and still feels like a newbie! Kim is a slow, but enthusiastic trail runner, and happiest when outdoors with her boys (husband, children AND dog).