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.”

WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK: What happens during a hiccup?

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Have you ever wondered what happens when you have the hiccups?

The American Lung Association, HEADLINE: Inconvenient hiccups, published March 17, 2016

Your diaphragm is an important muscle. It helps with your breathing by expanding and contracting your chest and that movement draws air into your lungs.

And, as our friends at the American Lung Association points out, we don’t really think about how awesome the diaphragm really is when you’re having a bad case of the hiccups.

A hiccup happens when the diaphragm spasms — it snaps your vocal cords causing that squeaky hiccup sound.

Check out the post from the American Lung Association’s blog to learn more about hiccups.

In the meantime, check out how challenging it is for this young seven-year-old who is trying to battle through a bad case of the hiccups while singing Australia’s national anthem. It took our breath away watching this.

For sale: bags of fresh air in China to fight pollution problem

The Mirror, HEADLINE: Bags of fresh air on sale in China to combat pollution problem, published March 26, 2016. 

hazy-day-in-beijing-1536906-640x480Remember that hairy-nose-filled PSA we shared on this blog, which was about reminding people in China to take action against air pollution because “it changes you.”

It seems air pollution in China has already changed some business opportunities for those vendors who cater to tourists looking to escape their smog-filled cities.

Vendors are selling bags of air at touristy hiking locations in China’s mountain parks. The bags of mountain air can then be taken home to enjoy or to be used straight away.

Small bags for sale for $1.88 CDN each and large bags for  sale for $5.63 CDN sometimes come with flower pedals to make the air “more pleasant” in the bag.

WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK: From cat videos to air quality

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 2.33.06 PM

Editor’s note: This is a new feature we hope our supporters — and fans of lung health — will enjoy on a weekly basis. “What We’re Reading This Week” will post on PoweredByBreathing.com on Fridays to give our supporters and fans of The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT an idea of the lung health-related news stories, clips, videos, and editorial posts that we are reading, watching, and listening to every week.

We hope you enjoy it. If you see an article that you came across related to lung health, please share it with us by emailing communicationsab@ab.lung.ca. 

Is it time we re-think how we keep warm?

“The quest for cleaner fire: Why it’s time to rethink our favourite way to get warm.”: Globe and Mail, Published Feb. 17, 2016

Forest PitThe Globe and Mail’s Sarah MacWhirter studies how cities across Canada are tackling air pollution, including Montreal where it will soon have some of the toughest regulations against wood burning.

Residents in Montreal will soon be required “to register their wood-burning fireplaces and stoves, and, as of Oct. 1, 2018, will have to replace what they have now with equipment that meets the tough new EPA standard of only 2.5 grams of particulate released into the atmosphere each hour,” writes MacWhirter.

Air pollution kills 5.5 million a year: VICE

“Air Pollution Kills 5.5 Million People A Year — Over Half Of Them in China, India”: VICE News, Published Feb. 16, 2016

forbidden-pollution-1245100-639x426Staggering stuff.

According to VICE News, air pollution has caused more than 5.5 million premature deaths in 2013, and that number is expected to rise — particularly in India and China.

In two of the world’s fastest growing economies, air pollution has killed 1.6 million people in China and 1.4 million in India, writes VICE News’ Jake Bleiberg.

The World Health Organization has already estimated that 80 per cent of outdoor air pollution-related premature deaths were due to ischaemic heart disease and strokes, while 14 per cent of deaths were due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or acute lower respiratory infections; and six per cent of deaths were due to lung cancer.

The purrrrr-fect message against smoking?


During the Grammy Awards Monday night, the Truth Initiative aired an amazing ad in the United States to engage young people to “be the generation that ends smoking.”

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 2.33.26 PM.pngIt was definitely the cat’s meow as the video — which has more than 2 million views on YouTube — cites that those poor kitties will get cancer if their owners smoke.

According to the ad that is full of cat-itude, smoking equals no cats, which means no cat videos. 😦

It’s a great message and our media specialist at The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT has already watched it a dozen times. Perhaps it’s like catnip.

-JC-