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

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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.


Test your home for radon before spring in Alberta

Radon graphic for blog post

Radon is a cancer-causing, colourless, odourless, naturally-occurring radioactive gas that comes from uranium breaking down deep in the soil. Radon enters a home through cracks in foundation walls, construction joints, and gaps around service pipes or support posts.

Preliminary data collected from 268 homes in Calgary region by a University of Calgary project shows that one in five homes are over Health Canada’s maximum acceptable limit of 200 Becquerels/m3.

Data also collected by The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT from 658 Alberta homes reveals that 16 per cent of those households have radon levels higher that Health Canada’s acceptable limit. However, when the homes are compared to limits set in the United States — a limit of 149 Bq/m3 — that’s 28 per cent of homes in Alberta that have tested higher than acceptable limits set in the U.S.

The World Health Organization recommends an acceptable limit of radon should be at 100 Becquerels/m3. With that said, 54 per cent of those same homes tested in Alberta are above WHO’s acceptable limit — a result that is much higher than anticipated.

The result is staggering because radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking in Canada. About 3,200 lung cancer deaths are attributed to radon exposure each year — about 16 per cent of all lung cancer deaths in Canada.

There are no radon free areas in Canada and data shows Alberta is in a very higher risk of having radon in almost every home. However, the question every Alberta household and landlord needs to answer is how much of that radioactive gas is in his or her home. Of course, the only way to know is to test.

Health Canada recommends that homes and buildings be tested for a minimum of three months using long term testing kit and the best time to test is during the fall and winter months. Since it is already mid-February, time is running out for households to take advantage of prime time opportunities to test their homes for radon.


Purchase your test kit from The Lung Association office or online from http://radonaware.accustarcanada.com/ at the cost of $35. Kits are also available at different hardware stores.

For more information about radon, visit www.ab.lung.ca/radon or contact Sufi Hassan, Program Specialist for Environment and Health by email at shassan@ab.lung.ca or by phoning 1-888-5666-5864, ext. 2252

— This blog post was authored by Sufi Hassan, Program Specialist for Environment and Health at The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT

WANTED: A home for lung transplant patients in Edmonton, Alberta


Linda and Kent MacInnes.

LOGAN LAKE, B.C. — Kent MacInnes, a 60-year-old resident who lives in this small picturesque town in British Columbia believes he made the right — yet difficult — choice to help protect his family’s financial future.

Despite living with congestive heart failure and a fatal lung disease known as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, MacInnes has chosen to pull himself off the wait list for a heart and double-lung transplant — a surgery he desperately needs in Edmonton’s University of Alberta hospital.

“If something were to happen after my surgery and I didn’t make it, then I would probably bankrupt my family and leave my wife with nothing,” said MacInnes.

Edmonton is the only city in Western Canada that has the expertise, facilities, and resources to handle these kinds of complicated surgeries, including double-lung transplants.

Medical costs are covered for the surgeries, even for patients like MacInnes who are from outside Alberta. However, travel and living expenses must be paid for by patients and their families — costs that can be financially crippling for anyone who lives outside a 100-km radius outside of Edmonton, especially for MacInnes who lives 865 km away from Alberta’s capital city.

Patients who need lung transplants — along with their caregivers — are required to stay in Edmonton for more than six months before, during and after their surgeries so they can be treated immediately if there are complications, like organ rejections.

Costs for those patients and their caregivers can be a huge financial burden, forcing families to make difficult decisions.

The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT doesn’t want to have any family decide between life and financial security. Our goal is to raise money to eventually build a home for transplant patients like MacInnes where they and their caregivers can have a place to call home during their entire stay in Edmonton.

The facility will also have staff on site where patients — like MacInnes — can get the care and information they need to help them prepare and recover from their surgeries.

“The cost of transportation is crippling in its own right,” said MacInnes. “I would have bankrupted my family.”

MacInnes says if all he needed was a double-lung transplant, having a home — supported by Lung Association donors — for lung transplant patients in Edmonton would have made a difference for his family.

His entire family is supportive of MacInnes’s decision.

“It is frightening to think how little we would have left after having to uproot and move to Edmonton,” said MacInnes who found out he had IPF after a heart attack in 2006.

“We would have to give up everything that we have here in order to be able to afford to live (in Edmonton).”

Help The Lung Association find a way to help patients like MacInnes by sending us a donation today.

Seven small ways to improve the air Albertans breathe every day


Alberta forest-firefighting crews have already tackled hundreds of wildfires that have burned across northcentral and northern areas of the province since early sping.

With more heat and dry conditions in the forecast in the next few weeks, more wildfires can be expected. The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT urges all Albertans — and residents in the Northwest Territories — to keep a close watch on local air quality reports, as well as following these seven small steps to keep your lungs healthy during the season.

  1. Check your local Air Quality Health Index to plan your outdoor activity. Visit: airquality.alberta.ca or dial 1-877-247-7333.

  2. In case of poor air quality follow the health messages corresponding the AQHI reading. Exercise indoors when the outdoor air quality is low.

  3. Use public transit or carpool on bad air day.

  4. Do not idle your vehicle while waiting for someone.

  5. Do not use gas or diesel powered mowers, leaf blowers or gardening equipment.

  6. Consider planting trees around your home during the summer

  7. If you are suffering from known lung problem keep your medication nearby and always have the symptoms under control, because bad air day may trigger your symptoms.

-Blog post authored by Sufi Hassan, Program Specialist for Environment and Health at The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT-

Does radon exist in Alberta? The Lung Association’s Amy Elefson sets the record straight


Winter is coming and as the months get colder, households in Alberta should consider testing their homes for radon, an odourless, colourless, and tasteless gas that is the second leading cause of lung cancer.

Amy Elefson, Program Specialist for Environment and Health at The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT, breaks down what is fact from fiction when it comes to radon in one of her two latest blog posts about this topic. To check out her blog, click here or read below:

Since many of you will be taking the time to test your homes for radon, The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT would like to take the time to clarify common misconceptions about radon.

Below you’ll find 5 common myths, and the reasons why they are myths. If you don’t know what radon is, visit www.ab.lung.ca/site/radon  and www.takeactiononradon.ca first!

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1)       There’s no radon in Alberta.

Fact: No region of the country is considered “radon-free”, but the levels of radon differ from region to region depending on the uranium concentration in the soil. The large majority of homes will have some level of radon, though that level varies widely from home to home. It has even been shown that immediate neighbours can have vastly different radon levels.

2)       There’s no evidence linking radon and lung cancer.

Fact: Studies in both North America and Europe have found a strong association between residential radon exposure and lung cancer. These studies confirm the radon health risks predicted by occupational studies completed on underground miners who inhaled radon over a several year period. It is known that radon is a carcinogen, and these studies demonstrate that exposure to radon, even at moderate levels, can lead to lung cancer.

3)       I don’t have a basement; I’m not at risk of radon exposure. Fact: If your home is in contact with the ground (i.e. not on stilts) radon can potentially enter. This means that regardless of whether a home has a basement, crawl space or is built on a slab of foundation; the risk of radon accumulation exists.

4)       There’s no risk associated with a radon level below 200 Bq/m3.

Fact: Since radon is a radioactive gas, there is no “safe” level. However … the lower the level, the lower the risk. In addition, the risk of developing lung cancer depends on two other important factors: duration of exposure and tobacco use. The number of years a person is exposed will affect the potential of developing lung cancer. As we know, tobacco use in general is a risk factor for lung cancer. The risk of developing lung cancer if you are a lifetime smoke is one in ten. Your risk increases to one in three if you are exposed to high levels of radon. This is compared to a one in twenty risk if you are a non-smoker exposed to the same high levels of radon.

5)       My neighbour’s radon mitigation system vents into my side yard, I’m being exposed to high levels of radon because of them.

Fact: If your neighbour’s radon mitigation system has been properly installed, with sufficient room between the end of the pipe and your house, then the radon will dissipate rapidly and only minimal atmospheric levels of radon will be found around your home.

Edmonton resident wins Fresh Air Photo contest, organized by London Drugs and The Lung Association

What a shot!

Chris Ha, an outdoor-enthusiast who lives in Edmonton, was just watering his plants in his living room as the sun was shining through his front window.

“I thought, with the water on the plant, that it looked really beautiful, so I decided to take some pictures,” said Ha.

“I could have spent three hours shooting that photo.”

After looking at the pictures on his computer, Ha realized he had a prize-winning, photographic work of art.

Knowing his photo was stunning, Ha took part in the 2014 Fresh Air Photo Contest — an annual summer event organized by The Lung Association and London Drugs to challenge Western Canadian photographers to show off their breathtaking shots. Since Ha won top prize for his amazing photo, he won a Nikkon D5300 prize pack, courtesy of London Drugs.

“This is so unbelievable,” said Ha. “I love outdoor photography.” “Thank you to the Lung Association and London Drugs for this amazing contest.”

Are you ‘powered by breathing?’ Tour continues across the province of Alberta

After touring a handful of communities and cities across the province, we have already heard from you, our supporters and patients, on what you would do if you could breathe better.

The following is a handful of those tweets!:

We have had a busy few months offering free breathing tests to hundreds of Albertans in communities — including Lethbridge, Camrose, and Fort McMurray. The tour is all part of The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT’s (“TLA”) Powered By Breathing campaign — sponsored by Nicorette and Nicoderm.

TLA was also in the small, central-Alberta town of Tofield this summer as dozens of volunteer firefighters helped raise money for important research and support programs offered by TLA.

Check out these tweets from those communities that we visited!:

The Powered By Breathing campaign is still far from over. TLA is still hoping to screen 75,000 Albertans this year for early diagnosis of lung illnesses — like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Early detection is important as doctors can use better treatments to reduce symptoms as well as preventing the illness from getting any worse. More Canadian women have died from COPD than breast cancer since 2009, according to figures from Statistics Canada. COPD is also the fourth leading cause of death worldwide.

You can find TLA staff and volunteers at the Women’s Show in Edmonton Oct. 18 and 19 at the Edmonton Expo Centre or the Women’s Show in Calgary on Oct. 25 and 26 at BMO Centre in Stampede Park.

For residents in Lethbridge, you can also find us at the Alberta Sleep Forum at the Lethbridge Lodge Hotel & Conference Centre on Oct. 22.

Tell us what you would do if you could breathe better? Leave a comment below this post!