I have asthma. Wheezy bike commutes throughout Vancouver led me to a Ph.D. focussing on air pollution and health, and in particular how this affects the lungs.
When we inhale air pollution it causes our lungs to become inflamed, and this inflammation is more severe if you have asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and if you are elderly.When we inhale air pollution it causes our lungs become inflamed, and this inflammation is more severe if you have asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and if you are elderly.
COVID-19 is a respiratory virus that also causes inflammation in the lungs and if you have asthma, COPD or are elderly you are more likely to be affected. The lungs are our first line of defence against air pollution and COVID-19 and if we inflame our lungs with air pollution are we setting ourselves up for a worse outcome if we get COVID-19, especially if we have asthma, COPD or are elderly?
The BC Centre for Disease Control recommends that we aim to reduce air pollution during the pandemic. The monitor we have in Squamish tells us that our air quality is good, overall that’s a great thing but unless you are next to Squamish elementary (where it’s located) it doesn’t capture your own personal air quality, which means it doesn’t fully represent the impact to you.
While we have open burning restrictions in place, this does not include campfires or wood stoves that some of our community use to heat their homes.
Researchers at UBC go as far as to say that wood fireplaces should not be used during the pandemic. While this is the ideal situation, in a town where many people are facing tight economic times and wood stoves are their only source of heat, this might not be realistic. But what I am hoping you will consider is: Do I need to have that campfire?
Ten percent of Canadians have asthma, which means you probably know someone or have someone close to your house that has to puff on their inhaler. Whether it’s a campfire in the backyard or chilling (two-metres apart) with your friends down by the river, you will likely be affecting the air quality of an asthmatic, which may put them in a worse position if they contract COVID-19.
Squamish, I am concerned that if I get COVID-19 I will be worse off and I will be even worse off if my lungs are inflamed from air pollution.
Is it time to think about helping our elderly neighbours or those with asthma and COPD by extinguishing your campfires?
Luisa Giles, PhD