All posts in environment

BC wildfires and your lung health

BC wildfires July 8,15As of today in BC, there are 68 active fires of note and/or fires larger than 10 hectares (there are many more fires in total than that!). But there are actually 197 fires total active around BC! That’s huge! And unusual for us this time of year. What’s even more unusual was waking up this past Sunday morning to an eerily coloured sky caused by the haze of smoke from those fires. By Sunday afternoon in Vancouver and many surrounding areas, the smell of smoke was in the air. My husband and I had taken our bikes downtown to check out the fan activity for the FIFA Women’s World Cup, and by 3 p.m. we decided that the smoke was too much, so we headed home to watch the game there. 

SUP Yoga beach

I did SUP yoga that morning, and this was the view of Kits beach as I headed out. (photo not modified)

Within a few hours the air quality advisory for Vancouver was at 7/10–in the high risk category–and we could feel it. For some it caused shortness of breath, wheezing, asthma attacks, coughing, scratchy throat, and irritated sinues. My husband experienced burning eyes. I got a headache (headaches are my barometer for pretty much anything that is not right for my body). Those with lung health issues, the elderly, and the very young are those most at risk with poor air quality advisories.

Thankfully air quality has improved in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, though the values are still wavering between a low to moderate level (2-5). In Squamish and Whistler right now, the numbers are much worse, with Whistler at 8 right now.

You’ve likely heard the recommendations to close your windows and get inside an air conditioned building. That may be doable during the daytime, but it’s hard to do that at night if you don’t have air conditioning in your home. I know that on Sunday we debated between keeping the windows open so we could cool our place down and closing the windows so no more smoke would enter. We chose the latter. Better to be warm than risk damaging our health.

Protect Your Lungs

  1. Check out the air quality ratings in your area. In BC, this is the link: bcairquality.ca
  2. If you hear advisories about air quality in the news, listen to them. 
  3. Minimize your exposure. Close windows and minimize outdoor activities. If you have heart or lung disease or are frail, consider leaving the area to stay somewhere with better air quality.
  4. Avoid burning things like wood fireplaces, gas logs, gas stoves, and even candles when smoke levels are high. Unlikely you’ll want to be lighting up your wood fireplace in this heat, but gas stoves might be more of a challenge for some.
  5. Don’t vacuum, as that stirs up particles already in your home. I like the excuse not to vacuum! However, some people noticed an accumulation of ash in their place. When you clean, consider using a proper particulate mask. Dust masks are not enough. An effective mask must be able to filter very small particles. Smoke particulate averages about 0.3 microns. It must also provide an airtight seal around your face. Masks marked with “R95,” “N95,” or “P95” can help (I found these online at Home Depot), but R,N, or P99 or 100 masks filter even more (Amazon has some 99 ones). Note that they won’t work if you don’t get a proper seal, and that those of you with beards will have a near impossible time to get a good seal. You might also find it’s hard to breathe through the masks, as they increase resistance to airflow.
  6. Use an air purifier to help filter some of the particulate out of your indoor environment.
  7. And, clearly, it’s better if you don’t smoke. That pollutes you and the lungs of people around you even more. Maybe it’s good timing to quit (see my blog on quitting smoking).

Support Your Lungs

  1. Find a clear air place to practice some deep cleansing breath work. Breathe in through your nose, fully and deeply. Hold your breath for a count of five. Then open your mouth and fully and slowly exhale all the air out of your lungs. When you think you’ve breathed it all out, use your abdominal muscles to help your diaphragm lift up further by exhaling “ha…ha…ha” to push out more air. Breathe in again, and repeat this sequence a few times. If you have chronic lung health issues, consult with a health professional before trying this. Also be careful if this makes you dizzy. Practicing this or other deep breathing exercises can help strengthen the lungs.
  2. Hydrate well. Your whole body needs water to function properly. Water also helps with mucus production and movement, key to collecting and getting rid of viruses, bacteria, other pathogens, toxins, and cellular waste products.
  3. Include garlic and onions in your diet. They help fight infections and decrease inflammation.
  4. Eat kale, cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage. They are part of the cruciferous veggie category, and they are rich in antioxidants that help to manage cellular damage. They have also been shown to help prevent and fight lung cancer.
  5. Chomp on apples. Several studies have shown that eating two to five apples a week can reduce the risk and severity of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It is believed that the flavonoids in apples, especially khellin, can help open up airways.
  6. Get treated. If you have lung health issues–asthma, allergies, COPD, emphysema, etc.–Traditional Chinese Medicine has a variety of powerful ways to support your lung health, from acupuncture and herbs to foods and lifestyle changes. 

Remember, even if you don’t have any lung health issues, your lungs are vital to your good health, so take good care of them!

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Happy Love Day!

Many people think that Valentine’s Day is just another way to get us to feel obliged to spend money. Buy a card, chocolates, or flowers and call that caring or love.

I have mixed thoughts about this. I don’t believe that handing out cards this one day of the year is a good way to recognize our love or caring of a significant other. I also don’t think that it should be exclusive to boy/girlfriends, wives/husbands, or dates.

Instead I think that every chance to show that you care about someone makes for a good day. I think that Valentine’s Day is a reminder to us to say “I love you” or “I care about you” or “You make me smile” or “Thank you”.

So this year, instead of buying things no one needs, I bought an e-card that’s a donation to one of the many causes that I think worthy, animal welfare. For all of you who love dogs, cats, horses, pigs, turtles, elephants, whales, dolphins, and pandas or rats, snakes, and spiders, here’s the link: http://www.reallywildgifts.ca/index.php

And while you’re at it, be kind to yourself too! That doesn’t mean you should just give yourself free reign to splurge on those shoes you love but don’t need or go crazy on a box of cookies because you love cookies. It means forgive yourself. It means allow yourself time to stop and smell the flowers (unless you have allergies!). It means take care of your mind, your body, and your spirit: exercise, eat healthy foods, drink enough water, get enough sleep, BREATHE, meditate, find creative things to do, dance, share, hug, read, learn, play, write, smile, LAUGH, and maybe get some acupuncture! 🙂

What will you do to show you care?

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Another reason to buy organic and wash your fruits and veggies VERY well

Check out this article from Australia about 2 chemicals that are sprayed on many fruits and veggies and nuts. The chemicals are endosulfan, an insecticide, and carbendazim, a fungicide. As far as I can find, they are still allowed for use in Canada and the US, though they have been banned in many other countries because of their risks for cancers, birth defects, neurological damage, hormone disruption, and more.
http://www.foodmatters.tv/articles-1/could-fungicides-have-caused-the-two-headed-fish-outbreak 

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An Inconvenient Truth


This movie is appropriately titled. To see it forces you to think about your actions and inactions. How can we close our eyes to something that will have such a big impact on our lives? To something that is already having huge consequences on our environment?

The hottest 10 years on record have all been recorded in the last 14 years! People joke that that just provides an opportunity for more beach days, but people are dying as a consequence of global warming.

Does it not seem as if there are more and more hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters lately? That’s because there are. The number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes has almost doubled in the last 30 years. Glaciers are disappearing. Malaria is spreading. Droughts, floods, and wildfires are increasing. Animals are at risk of disappearing: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/NatureChallenge/newsletters/Species_Aug2006/default.asp

The impact of global warming is even being felt by Vancouver Island businesses this summer with the closing of tourist-related businesses this long weekend due to a water shortage.

One could read these facts and feel dispair. But, as is said in the movie, there is a step between denial and dispair. That step is action. We took action when the ozone layer was severely damaged and we forced our governments to make the necessary changes. Now the ozone layer is no longer a concern. For what you can do see http://www.davidsuzuki.org/WOL/Challenge/

Why do I post something about the environment on my site that is about health? Well, because your environment does affect your health. As much as we have technology to heat or cool our indoor spaces, we don’t live in our own personal bubbles. Peoples joints really do ache when the weather turns damp. People do get headaches with weather changes. Environmental allergies are huge! In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we do see the relationship between wind, cold, heat, damp, and dry with health conditions ranging from the common cold, to strokes, to cancers.

Have you seen the movie? What do you think? What have you done?

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