Don’t smother the grandkids

No one wants their grandkids or other loved ones to suffer from lung disease.  But a study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine shows a link between your car – and your grandchild’s health.

The study was funded by the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), one of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the California Air Resources Board and the Hastings Foundation.

“This is the longest study ever conducted on air pollution and children’s health,”said Dr. Kenneth Olden, director of NIEHS. “It shows that current levels of air pollution have adverse effects on lung development in children between the ages of 10 and 18.”

The study looked at children living in some of the most polluted areas in the greater Los Angeles basin, as well as several less-polluted communities outside the Los Angeles area. It was conducted over an 8-year period.

The researchers found that children living in the most polluted communities had significant reductions in their “forced expiratory volume” – how much air you can breath our after a deep breath – compared to children living in communities with cleaner air.

&l;srong>Part of the problem – part of the solution
Air quality is a big problem and may seem to be such a large problem that it’s hopeless to try to get involved. But in fact smog is often created one family at a time. There are many things you can do to contribute to improving the quality of our air.

One resource to help you get involved is the One-Tonne Challenge (see  Launched by the Government of Canada to motivate individual Canadians to use less energy and fewer resources in their daily activities so they reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by an average of one tonne or about 20%, the Challenge makes suggestions for change and provides a home energy calculator to encourage you track your progress.

Some tips from the One-Tonne Challenge include:


  • Drive less by taking public transit, car-pooling, or walking or biking.
  • Drive smarter. Combine errands.
  • Don’t idle. Idling for 10 minutes a day can produce about a quarter tonne of CO2 emissions each year.
  • When buying a new vehicle, choose a fuel-efficient one.  You can compare the fuel consumption of different vehicles by consulting the Fuel Consumption Guide at
  • Check your tire pressure once a month.

At Home:

  • Draft-proof your home.
  • Use compact fluorescent light bulbs.
  • Install and use a programmable thermostat.
  • When buying a new appliance, choose an energy-efficient one.
  • Reduce your household waste.

You can also learn more by reading Pollution Probe’s primers on energy conservation, alternative energy sources, and smog reduction.  All of these are available online at

Going the extra mile
If you want to go further, you can consider renovating your home to become even more fuel-efficient. Again the Government of Canada has committed resources to encouraging Canadians to do so through the EnerGuide for Houses (EGH) programme.

This programme offers an expert service to evaluate your home’s energy use and make suggestions for retrofitting. Most attractively, it also provides grants for some homeowners to make certain specific changes to their home.

More information and criteria for eligibility are available here.