RMOW Environmental Coordinator
Whistler, with all its clean mountain air, has a few airborne ingredients that create a recipe for bad breath(ing) - specifically Particulate Matter .
This weekend, I wanted to make my famous curry potato dish as I knew that my kids would gobble up this deliciously warm, comforting meal. However, going through my cupboards revealed missing spices which would make this dish a tasty success. A walk to the market and I was able to pick up everything I needed for the recipe. Unfortunately, because I had to walk through the grocery store parking lot full of idling vehicles, I also picked up too many other things that I definitely didn't need - bad breath, and I don't mean mine.
Particulate matter are the solid particles or liquid droplets naked to the human eye floating in the air. Particulate matter from vehicle exhaust causes the type of air pollution that most commonly affects people's health causing lung damage, asthma, increased heart disease, cancer and is even linked to premature death. These fine particles penetrate deep into our lungs and bloodstream creating the recipe for a slow painful death by posing serious health problems for people with respiratory ailments and for children especially, as children breathe more air per kilo of body weight than adults.
Like all Whistlerites, I shiver from the cold when I am waiting in my car. However, warm blooded or not, what we all need to be is a little more warm-hearted and consider the health of those around us. Statistics Canada figures show that asthma rates have soared, affecting nearly 13 per cent of Canadian children in 2000-01 as compared to 2.5 per cent in 1978. Asthma is now the most common chronic pediatric disease in Canada and other developed, westernized countries. Exhaust from idling vehicles accumulates in and around schoolyards resulting in the indoor air being more polluted than outside, posing significant health risks to children and teachers during the day.
But how can you consider the health of others while you are freezing your butt off in your car? First, make it a habit to turn the ignition off the moment you arrive at your destination. And here is where you have a few options to keep yourself warm while you are waiting;
• Dress warmly - don't leave home without your down jacket, mittens, scarf and toque.
• Carry and use a warm blanket in your vehicle during the cold winter months.
• Get out of your car and go for a brisk walk to keep warm.
• Get out of your car and briskly walk over to the next vehicle and kindly ask the owner to turn off his or her idling vehicle.
• Carry a thermos of warm tea, coffee or soup when you know that you may have to wait for a loved one.
• Stay warm and cozy thinking about how you can start an anti-idling campaign at your workplace or school.
Air pollution from exhaust fumes is only one of the ingredients in the recipe for a slow painful death. We also need to consider the air pollution caused by other generators of particulate matter, such as from inefficient wood stoves and improper burning which results in a lot of smoke filling our neighbourhoods. A properly-installed, correctly-used wood-burning appliance should be smoke-free. If you see or smell smoke that means you may have a problem. Book an appointment to have your chimney cleaned and check the guidelines http://bcairquality.ca/topics/wood-burning-appliances.html website to reduce smoke inside and outside your home and to protect the air we breathe.
The young and the elderly are most vulnerable to particulate matter. When we stop filling the air with toxic ingredients we begin to create a recipe for clean air and improved health. That should curry a little flavour for a long life without bad breath(ing).
To learn more about actions that are moving Whistler toward our 2020 vision, or to get involved, go to whistler2020.ca