Clara Phillips, June 3, 2020
Did you know it’s Canadian Environment Week? Canadian Environment Week, established in 1971, is celebrated every year during the week of June 5 to coincide with UN World Environment Day, and this year it also includes Clean Air Day Canada (today!). Take this week to appreciate our beautiful country, and to learn more about our unique and diverse habitats. But first, what is Clean Air Day?
About Clean Air Day
Good air is vital to good health. In 1999, Canada declared Clean Air Day an annual celebration as part of the federal government’s commitment to prioritizing clean air for the physical, social and economic well-being of all Canadians and their environment.
Environment Canada states that air pollution is one of the most significant environmental challenges that affects public health, yet is also one of the most avoidable causes of death and disease. During this concerning time of COVID-19, the importance of clean air has an even greater influence. Exposure to air pollution increases susceptibility to respiratory viral infections and pneumonia, suggesting that people exposed to higher levels of air pollution may be at greater risk of becoming ill with COVID-19.
How West Park is Taking Action
In the healthcare field, facilities are now challenged by environmental interference as a result of rising temperatures, humidity advisories and poor air quality. West Park, as a leading healthcare facility with a tenacious focus specializing in respiratory rehabilitation, has recognized how the detrimental effects on air quality predisposes our vulnerable patient population to additional injury or illnesses.
Therefore, West Park has established additional precautions and corresponding procedures to ensure the respiratory safety and well-being of staff, physicians, volunteers, students, and patients by operating in accordance with the Government of Canada Air Quality Health Index report. Each year, West Park also voluntarily completes the Green Hospital Scorecard to help us improve our pollution prevention, as well as other climate factors such as energy and water conservation, waste management and recycling, and corporate commitment. Click here to read more about how we are tackling climate resiliency.
As West Park is currently undergoing the largest redevelopment in its history with the construction of a new six-story hospital, we are continuing to uphold our roots of integrating nature into therapy. The design of the new hospital features bringing elements of nature indoors and extending the therapeutic environment to the outdoors. With trails dispersed throughout the 10,000 square feet of outdoor space, respiratory patients, in particular, can use these trails to improve lung capacity in an environment supported with clean, fresh air supplied by surrounding trees. In fact, for every tree removed during construction, three new trees will be planted in their place. Read the full article about West Park’s campus development, “Nature is Nurture”, in the Canadian Healthcare Facilities Winter 2018/2019 issue here, on page 18.
What You Can Do
Wondering what you can do to help reduce your impact on air pollution? Here is a list put together by Air Quality Ontario:
- Reduce your car use: walk, cycle or take public transit. Leave your car at home, if possible, or be efficient by doing all your errands at once. Hold a teleconference (something we’ve become accustom to during COVID-19) instead of travelling to meetings.
- Drive clean: try carpooling and join the commuter challenge. Keep your car well maintained to ensure it runs its best, which will help limit its pollutants. If it’s in your means, purchase an electric or hybrid vehicle.
- Turn off the lights: generating electricity contributes to smog, so remember to turn off the lights whenever you don’t need them!
- Reduce hydro usage: air conditioning uses up energy which emits pollutants that contribute to smog. Set your air conditioning temperature a few degrees higher to help improve air quality.
- 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 latex and water-based paints, and try a recipe for a DIY chemical-free cleaner.
- Limit use of small engine tools: small gasoline engines in mowers, chain saws and leaf blowers emit high levels of pollutants that cause smog. Did you know that gasoline-powered lawn mower pollutes 3-4 times as much per hour as your car? Use electric-powered or, even better, manual tools which don’t produce any pollution. Use a push lawn mower to burn calories and protect the atmosphere, and don’t blow your leaves – rake them!
To learn more about the importance of clean air at home and how to protect yourself against air pollution, check out these online resources.
This year, the UN’s theme for World Environment Day is Biodiversity. Stay tuned for our upcoming post this Friday, June 5, to shine a light on this special day, and what it means for Canada.