CARP adds voice to air quality education

Poor air quality, especially in summertime, takes its toll on 50-plus Canadians, causing or aggravating a range of health conditions.

CARP, Canada’s 400,000 member advocacy group for the 50 plus, has joined Health Canada and Environment Canada in a public education campaign about that fact.

The effort includes continuing refinement of the air quality index (AQI). Based on the latest scientific tools to monitor air pollutants, the AQI is a “bad air” forecasting system for the public.

Get message out
By having timely information on the quality of the air and its effects on their health, older Canadians can take steps to reduce the risks. CARP’s role is to help publicize consumer messages about air quality.

The association’s involvement comes as a follow-up to recommendations coming out of its 2000 National Forum on Clean Air, which received the support of Environment Canada.

At that time, David Anderson, Federal Minister of Environment Canada, was presented with a report, including 17 practical recommendations for governments to achieve clean air.  The recommendations covered international and national actio as well as policies on incentives, public transit, vehicles, gasoline, urban planning and seniors’ involvement.

Causes premature deaths
Environment Canada estimates that ozone and other common air pollutants cause as many as 16,000 premature deaths each year across Canada.
In Toronto alone, although people over 50 make up 23 per cent of the population, they account for 56 per cent of all respiratory hospital admission.

Protect your health
The Ontario Ministry of the Environment recommends these protective steps:

  • Reduce car use – all year round

Emissions from cars, trucks and buses contribute greatly to poor air quality. Walk, cycle or take public transit. Leave your car at home, if possible, or limit car trips by doing all your errands at once.
Stay away from heavy traffic areas when walking or cycling.

  • Drive clean

Keep your car well tuned. Shut the engine off, even for short stops. One minute of idling uses more fuel than restarting your engine.  

  • Limit use of small engine tools

Small gasoline engines in mowers, chain saws and leaf blowers emit high levels of pollutants that cause smog. Use electric-powered or, even better, manual tools which don’t produce any pollution.

  • Use air-friendly products

Avoid using aerosol sprays and cleaners, oil-based paints and other chemical products that contribute to poor air quality indoors and outdoors.

Use less-toxic alternatives. A small cup filled with vinegar and left on a counter top works as well as an aerosol air freshener. A mixture of water and soap flakes works as well as any pest spray to reduce an ant colony. 

  • Stay indoors

People sensitive to bad air may experience eye, nose and throat irritations, chest discomfort, laboured breathing and possible lung damage. If you are vulnerable, stay indoors when the Air Quality Index is high.