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.”

Support group launched to help patients with lung disease in Red Deer, Alberta

Mac Dunbar (SUPPLIED PHOTO)

Mac Dunbar

Mac Dunbar, a 70-year-old retired chemical engineer, believes he would not have access to the help he needs for his debilitating lung illness if it wasn’t for a new support group that was kick started by The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT (“TLA”).

Dunbar, who was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in 2004, has taken part in the new support group weekly in Red Deer. The Lung Association hopes to locate others in need of support and encourages residents to take a simple breathing test SATURDAY (Aug. 23) at the Red Deer Market as part of TLA’s Powered By Breathing campaign, generously sponsored by Nicorette and Nicoderm.

“When you have a debilitating disease, you really need to talk to somebody who is in the same boat as you to get some idea of what form (this illness) could take,” said Dunbar who admits he is in the early stages of COPD, a long-term lung disease that slowly damages a patient’s airways making it harder to breathe.

“Up until this support group was created, I didn’t really know anybody else who had diagnosed lung issues.”

Dunbar says having a handful of “kindred-spirits” around him can help him learn from other patients’ experiences and their difficulties.

“That is an amazing part of a support group,” said Dunbar.

This year, TLA is celebrating its 75th anniversary with its Powered By Breathing campaign. The campaign hopes to screen 75,000 Albertans for early detection of lung illnesses – like 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.

“Anybody who has an issue with their lung health needs to be treated — early detection is important,” said Dunbar.

Mac Dunbar

Mac Dunbar

Volunteers with TLA at the farmers’ market at 4751 43 St. in Red Deer will also ask shoppers “what they would do if they could breathe better” to spread awareness about lung disease as part of the campaign.

Dunbar says he would walk and not take a golf cart during a round of golf and would love to snorkel while he is on a Mexican vacation – only if he was able to breathe better.

“I couldn’t get more than 10-feet away from shore because I couldn’t breathe,” said Dunbar while describing one vacation he had in Mexico. “I would love to be able to go snorkeling again.”

Since 1939, TLA has been the primary information source for lung health. The organization continues to raise funds for critical research and patient support programs and advocates for changes in public policy.

What would you do if you could breathe better? Let us know by tweeting us using the hashtag #PoweredByBreathing, sending a Facebook message, emailing carol@ab.lung.ca or by filling your answer below!