The air we breathe is vital to the health of our lungs. We need to protect it, both outside our homes and inside where we live, work and play.
10 Easy Steps for Cleaner Air
Breathing polluted air affects your lung health now and in the future. Here are some simple actions you can take to reduce air pollution and keep the air cleaner.
- Walk, bike, carpool, or take public transit.
- Be idle-free. Turn off your car’s engine while you wait. Park and walk into restaurants instead of waiting in drive-through lines.
- Know before you go. If you need to drive, plan the most fuel-efficient route using free online tools such as Google maps. It will also help avoid high traffic and construction areas, preventing needless idling.
- Check your tire pressure. Properly inflated tires improve fuel efficiency. Each 5% of under-inflation translates into a 1% decrease in fuel efficiency.
- Reduce heating by making your house more energy efficient. Find out about government programs that test your home’s energy efficiency and give grants to help pay for the cost of improving your home’s energy efficiency.
- Say no to wood fire burning.
- Use hand- or battery-powered garden equipment, such as lawnmowers and leaf-blowers. Avoid using gasoline- or diesel-powered equipment.
- Garden without pesticides. There are many healthy and safe alternatives to harmful cosmetic pesticides.
- Reduce, reuse, and recycle!
- Get involved. Support national and local efforts to clean up the air.
Wood Burning Fire Pits
Enjoy the fire. Not the smoke.
Smoke from wood-burning fires is hard on healthy lungs and can be devastating for people with lung illnesses. There are ways we can enjoy a fire without smoke impacting our breathing.
Because of smoke in the air, a child with asthma can’t play outside. A senior with COPD must increase their medication and can’t work in their garden. And the smoke can impact neighbours blocks away.
Healthier options for a fire pit are natural gas or propane. From an ecological standpoint, both fuels are clean burning, which means that the harmful emissions and toxins are minimal.
Wildfires (including grass fires and forest fires) are an ongoing concern, especially during dry, hot weather. The health effects from wildfire smoke can range from mild to severe and can even be life-threatening. When wildfires are in effect, avoid the smoke as much as possible. Smoke can affect everyone’s health and breathing.
Some common symptoms from smoke exposure may include:
- irritated eyes
- runny nose
- worsening of allergies
Those with asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) are especially at risk. Worsening asthma or COPD symptoms that are not managed can lead to an asthma emergency or a COPD lung attack. Both a COPD lung attack and an asthma emergency may result in the need for hospitalization and even death.
General recommendations to avoid forest fire smoke:
- Stay indoors.
- Keep doors, windows, and fireplace dampers shut.
- Use air conditioners on the recirculation setting so outside air will not come inside.
- Avoid exercising outdoors.
- Take extra precautions with children. They are more susceptible to smoke because they breathe faster, and their lungs are still developing.
- Children, older adults, and anyone with a heart or lung disease are more susceptible to smoke. Extra precautions should be taken during the wildfire season.
- Keep your windows and vents closed while driving. Only use air conditioning with the recirculate setting.
- Do not have campfires or use backyard wood-burning fire pits. This adds to the poor air quality.
- Make sure your medications are up-to-date and filled. Everyone with asthma or COPD should always have a fast acting (rescue) inhaler with them.
- Pay attention to air quality reports on your local news channel or websites:
Do not rely on dust masks for protection from wildfire smoke. An N95 face mask can trap the larger particles in the air that irritate your nose and throat. However, these masks will not protect your lungs from the small, dangerous particles found in smoke.
If you live in an area that may need to be evacuated due to wildfires, be prepared. Pack an emergency kit that includes prescriptions and medications.
Indoor Air Quality
Canadians spend close to 90 percent of their time indoors, making indoor air quality an important health concern.
Poor air quality has been shown to cause and/or irritate a wide array of health effects, such as:
- lung cancer
- respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia
- ear, nose, and throat irritation and inflammation
- and many others