WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK: Turning lemons into lemonade

Here’s a reminder for those who are new to reading this blog. “What We’re Reading This Week” (WWETW) is a weekly feature to give our supporters, volunteers and fans of lung health a review of the stories that we are reading this week.

Have you read something that’s worth sharing? Let us know about it by sending us an email.

Duped Volkswagen owner gives to Lung Association

Toshiba Digital Camera

Talk about turning lemons into lemonade. Dr. Mary Graham is giving the credit she earned from Volkswagen to our friends at the BC Lung Association as a result of a scandal that has hounded the German car manufacturer.

Thousands of vehicle owners across Canada — including Graham — were in the crossfire Volkswagen’s recent scandal.  The company admitted to using engine software that shut down its emissions controls when its vehicles were not being tested.

That improved performance and mileage, but meant the vehicles spewed far more than the legal limit of pollutants.

In an effort to help win back its customers, Volkswagen has offered a credit package to Canadian owners — a credit card loaded with $500, a further $500 for use at Volkswagen dealerships and three years of roadside assistance.

Graham — a who owns a late-model station wagon from Volkswagen  — donated her credit to the BC Lung Association after feeling betrayed by the car company.

Check out the rest of the story here.

Yoga is a good workout, especially for asthma patients, suggests study

Metro News Canada, Published April 28, HEADLINE: Yoga could reduce asthma symptoms, study finds


Yoga has a lot of benefits. It’s not only good for your mental health, but it’s also a healthy way to keep your lungs healthy and active.

yoga-relax-1556603-640x650Researchers, as part of a a global study looking into the effects of asthma, say they’ve found a regular practise of the exercise can help asthma patients.

However, health professionals say it is still important for patients to continue using their prescribed treatments to help them maintain their respiratory health.

Yoga is a great way to exercise and there are so many benefits as it promotes breathing, particularly through the nose. That in turn helps you relax as you stretch your muscles to soothing, calming music.

According to the Yoga Journal, there are 38 health benefits of yoga.

Just a reminder, World Asthma Day is on Tuesday, May 3 this year.


WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK: Getting down to business on air pollution

Provincial government targets air pollution in central Alberta

Jeff's leg photoHappy Earth Day! Here’s a timely story we are reading this week:

After Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips announced that Red Deer is on track to have one of the worst air pollution levels in the province last September, the government announced plans this week to change that trend in central Alberta.

Between 2009 and 2013, ambient air quality in the Red Deer region exceeded Canadian standards for fine particulate matter. Government officials say this week the plan would help bring ambient air quality in compliance with national standards.

“Our government is committed to reducing the amount of air pollution across the province and we are taking steps that will improve air quality which is vital to the health of all Albertans,” said Phillips in a press release.

One of the major contributors to the air pollution is burning coal, which is harmful to heath and, according to the government, costs hundreds of millions of dollars to Alberta’s health care system.

The government says in a press release that “decisive steps” are being taken to improve air quality in central Alberta. The plan, which is multi-layered and involves work developed by area stakeholders, builds on and complements local efforts, says government officials.

To ensure those levels reach compliance standards, Alberta’s government gave the Parkland Airshed Management Zone a $250,000-grant to help with a new air monitoring station in Red Deer.

Another $560,000 will be spent to help a current air monitoring station offer more, in-depth particular matter monitoring for central Alberta — something that will result in a more accurate identification of pollution sources.

The Alberta Motor Association has already made steps to educate drivers to reduce idling and the City of Red Deer has already made steps by encouraging people to take transit or ride a bicycle.

These are all steps in the right direction.

Air quality is the biggest challenge facing China, panel hears

forbidden-pollution-1245100-639x426Here’s an interesting story from the Edmonton Journal: A panel discussion at the University of Alberta this week found why issues of air quality in China is far more important than its economy and energy.

The air quality issues are also hitting China’s middle-class hard in their pocketbooks as they are spending roughly $187 million US during each smoggy day to by face-masks.

Junjie Zhang, an associate professor in the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California, San Diego, says as China’s economy continues to struggle, people who are moving out of the country are not leaving to find better prosperous futures elsewhere. They are leaving to breathe cleaner air elsewhere.

“Air pollution is the major concern,” quoted Zhang in the Edmonton Journal. “It’s one of the many reasons why many Chinese come to Canada and southern California.”

Top 10 ways you can prevent lung disease

It’s true what they say, prevention is always the best medicine. The same can be said with the health of your lungs. We have created Lungs gifa list of 10 ways you can help prevent lung disease:

10. Make a difference. Protect your family by encouraging exercise, eating right and keeping your home free of respiratory triggers. Help spread the word to those around you to increase awareness about lung health. Every day, you can make a difference.

9. Start small. Your best bet for preventing lung disease is by helping children grow up smoke free and by modelling that behaviour. The Lung Association works with government and other organizations to ensure communities are smoke-free. Call us at 1-888-566-LUNG (5864) for free information on the dangers caused by tobacco.


Supplied photo from FreeImages.com

8. There are more than 300 substances in the workplace known to cause occupational asthma. Know the symptoms of asthma and monitor to see if they appear while at work. Talk to your doctor about workplace risks.

7. Test your home for radon. It’s simple and inexpensive. This coulourless, odourless gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer, yet you can easily prevent it from getting into your home. Visit www.YourHealthyHome.ca for more information on how to keep the air in your home healthy.

6. Get involved! Air pollution worsens lung disease and can be divesting for all Canadians, especially for those with chronic lung conditions. Join in the fight for clean air by reducing pollution and supporting clean air laws.

5. Prevent air pollution. Help keep the air in your community clean. Drive less, don’t idle your vehicle, and avoid burning wood, leaves or trash.

4. Know the symptoms of asthma, such as wheezing, coughing, or shortness of breath. Call the Lung Association at 1-888-566-LUNG (5864) and speak to one of our certified respiratory educators if you suspect you or a loved one has asthma. We can help you learn how to get it under control.

3. Recognize the warning signs of lung disease. Chronic cough, chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing blood, chronic mucus production and chronic fatigue are not normal. See your doctor or other health provider for prompt attention.

2. Avoid lung hazards. Protect yourself from air pollution indoors and outdoors. Don’t allow anyone to smoke in your home. Visit www.YourHealthyHome.ca for more tips.

1. Don’t smoke. If you smoke, plan to quit. Call The Lung Association at 1-888-566-LUNG (5864) for the help you need to quit for good. You can also visit www.lung.ca.

WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK: Spring is here, but so is allergy season


Don’t fear allergies this spring

dandelion-1187504-638x477Spring is finally here. As this weekend is expected to have warm temperatures and sunny conditions across most parts of Alberta, it’s the perfect time to go outside and enjoy the outdoors.

However, it’s also the start of the season for allergies and asthma triggers.

As the American Lung Association points out, pollen is perhaps the most obvious springtime and allergy offender, and up here in Alberta, you can also count winter mould.

You can avoid being forced to do a Netflix marathon during a sunny weekend by following these steps:


The American Lung Association also suggests doing yard work and gardening in the evening when pollen counts are usually at its lowest. Keep in mind, fertilizers and freshly cut grass can worsen asthma symptoms. It suggests if you do those outdoor chores consider wearing a partial mask — available at most hardware stores — to avoid breathing in those tiny particles.

Is asthma over-diagnosed?

CBC, HEADLINE: Asthma diagnosis ‘trivialized,’ fuels overdiagnosis, doctors say; Published April 15, 2016.

asthma-inhaler-1419833-639x424Here’s another reason why it is so important to support medical research funding when it comes to lung illnesses like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

As mentioned in last week’s “What We’re Reading This Week” (WWETW) post, British researchers and medical professionals are debating whether or not inhalers are being over-prescribed. Some medical researchers on one side of the conversation say inhalers have become somewhat of “a fashion accessory.”

Now that debate has reached Canada. Dr. Shawn Aaron, a respirologist from Ottawa Hospital, says more than 30 per cent of Canadians diagnosed with asthma don’t in fact have it.

His comments are based on his own research published in 2010. His research involved studies on roughly 500 adults.

However, inhalers — as mentioned in the previous WWETW post — have been credited for saving the lives for millions of people worldwide since is was first created 60 years ago.
With more funding for medical research, health professionals may be able to solve this dilemma soon.

Check out a joint position statement released by the Canadian Thoracic Society and the Canadian Paediatric Society last year on the diagnosis and management of asthma in preschoolers.


Lung research is giving children better odds of survival


Kara Hamm, 2, was born with congenital diaphragmatic hernia and underwent a life-saving surgery.

Kara Hamm — now two-years-old — was born with a hole in her diaphragm, the muscle that separates the lungs from the abdomen.

This hole interfered in the diaphragm’s crucial role of helping the lungs to inflate for breathing. It also allowed Kara’s internal organs to shift upwards and push aside her already abnormally developed lungs.

“As a pediatric surgeon, I’ve operated on many babies like Kara,” said Dr. Richard Keijzer, a pediatric surgeon-scientist at the University of Manitoba. “It’s heartbreaking to know that as many as 10 to 20 per cent of these precious won’t survive. Others may have lung complications and struggle to breathe throughout their lives.”

Keijzer says Kara, and other babies born like her, inspire him to begin his research on congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH). The Lung Association, with its amazing supporters, have helped fund this much needed research.


Dr. Richard Keijzer, Pediatric Surgeon-Scientist, University of Manitoba

Thanks to The Lung Association’s supporters, Keijzer’s says his research has “propelled forward in amazing directions” and “now is the time for your support.”

With about 150 children born worldwide with CDH every day, it’s almost as common as cyctic fibrosis.

“We knew that Kara would be born with this illness because it showed up on ultrasounds during her mother’s pregnancy,” said Keijzer in a personal letter to supporters of The Lung Association. “We also know she’d be born with serious complications, like pulmonary hypertension, and would need ventilators to breathe.


“After her birth, it was several days before Kara stabilized and we were able to operate to close the hole. Her parents, Holly and Cody, didn’t even know if they’d get to bring Kara home because CDH has claimed more than 300,000 lives since the year 2000.

Now, as Keijzer points out, if researchers can learn how this abnormal lung development happens, there would be no need for doctors to perform complicated surgeries on vulnerable babies. That is exactly what Keijzer is researching.

“The more we understand about this disease, the better targeted therapies we can develop to treat it,” said Keijzer.

Your support is important. One in five Albertans live with a lung disease such as asthma, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The annual burden of lung disease is $12 billion in Canada. Without answers, it’s predicted that figure could double by 2030. Research can help this trend.

Please continue to support this work so we can find new treatments and cures for those living with lung disease. Then we can all breathe easier.

For more information on how your donations help with research, give us a call at 1-888-566-5864.

WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK: Take me out to the ball game tobacco free


Batting tobacco out of the park

It’s the opening week of major league baseball in the United States and in Canada’s biggest city — the home of the Toronto Blue Jays.

This season is a little different as a handful of baseball cities are coming together to fight tobacco. That movement is creating steam in New York City where its mayor, Bill De Blasio,  signed a bill Wednesday (April 6, 2015) that bans the use of smokeless tobacco products at all ticketed baseball stadiums, sports arenas, and recreation areas.

Similar bans have already been put in place at ball parks in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Boston.

This has been the result of a campaign that the American Lung Association partnered in, called Knock Tobacco Out of the Park. The campaign was created to make sure sights of seeing players stuff large wads of tobacco into their mouths becomes a thing of the past.

The American Lung Association says MLB players have a major effect on whether kids — especially young boys — start using smokeless tobacco.

Acbaseball-game-1316732-639x852cording to a a September 2015 report from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, high school athletes are using smokeless tobacco at close to half the rate of non-athletes. Smokeless tobacco rates among high school athletes also jumped by more than 11 per cent from 2001 to 2013. And the report shows that smokeless tobacco rates among high school athletes are alarming high at 17.3 per cent in 2013.

The American Lung Association cites that smokeless tobacco — which has dangerous risks to health, including oral, pancreatic and esophageal cancer — is being marketed to children. Roughly $503.2 million is being spent by smokeless tobacco companies to market their products.

Asthma inhalers celebrate 60th anniversary

The Guardian: Asthma Inhalers Celebrate 60th Anniversary With Debate on Over-Prescription, published April 8, 2015

asthma-inhaler-1419833-639x424The Guardian has helped remind us that an inhaler, an important tool to help those with asthma manage their symptoms, is celebrating its 60th anniversary.

Report Harpon Siddique take a look at how the inhaler has  been credited for saving the lives of millions of people, and how a debate is surfacing on how the inhaler has been, in his words, “in a sense, a victim of its own success.”

The entire story is an interesting look into the inhalers that have been around since 1956. Let us know what you think? Do you have a story about how your inhaler helped you? Send us an email.



WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK: Alberta researchers helping kids breathe easier


Asthma researchers create digital tool to help Alberta family docs

UToday: Asthma researchers develop electronic care guide for family docs, published March 23, 2016

Researchers from the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary designed a digital tool to help asthmatic children breathe easier.

A newly-designed treatment guide will be put directory into an asthmatic child’s electronic medical record with their family doctor — ensuring they receive the best care.

Twenty-two medical practices across Alberta will be using this tool as part of a three-year study to test its usefulness when it comes to managing childhood asthma care.

The University of Calgary says if the results are positive, a province wide rollout “is envisioned.”

Researchers expect this digital tool could help doctors prescribe the proper medication, along with guiding parents when it comes to filling and using the prescriptions properly.

Doctors will be given a tool called a decision-making tree into a child’s electronic medical record to help with their diagnosis, while their staff will be given better training to provide education on asthma treatments.

Click here to read more about the story. 

Federal government urged to build better strategy to ban asbestos

The Globe & Mail: Pressure mounts on Ottawa to join wide ban on asbestos, published March 27, 2016


More health organizations, nurse unions, and building trades councils are urging Canada’s government to come up with a plan to fully ban asbestos.

The Lung Association has determined that all forms of asbestos cause asbestosis, a progressive debilitating fibrotic disease of the lungs. The Lung Association has also determined that all forms of asbestos cause malignant mesothelioma, lung and laryngeal cancers. 

The best way to eliminate asbestos-related lung diseases is to stop its use. The mining and export of asbestos should be banned to protect everyone’s lung health.

Read more about this interesting story from the Globe & Mail.