The Environment and Your Health

The Environment and Your Health | Dr. Ali Ghahary

Pollution is one of the biggest concerns when it comes to our environment. As humans, we’re actually responsible for most of the pollution that gets released into the environment. What we don’t realize, however, is that breathing in all that pollution can actually have a detrimental impact on our health.

Air pollution can be classified into two types: Visible or invisible. Things like smoke, dust and haze are considered “visible” pollutants and can oftentimes be smelled, while other pollutants like carbon monoxide are considered “invisible” as they are without color and odour. Another common example of air pollution is the burning of fossil fuels. For example, oil, coal, as well as gasoline to provide us with electricity and power our homes and vehicles. Pollution can also be caused by agricultural activities, exhaust from factories, mining operations, and even household products like cleaners and paint supplies. Whether you spend your time indoors or outdoors, you can be affected by air pollution.

Pollutants can be inhaled into the lungs as well as cross into the blood stream which can have an effect on your respiratory system as well as have an impact on other organs in your body. For example, if you have pre-existing cardiovascular or respiratory problems, you may notice an aggravation of those illnesses. High levels of air pollution can also cause added stress to the heart and lungs, thus forcing the body to work harder to supply itself with oxygen. Things like asthma, bronchitis and emphysema can also occur as a result of long-term exposure to air pollution – and in some cases even cancer. You are at an increased risk of developing health problems as a direct result of air pollution if, as mentioned, you can certain pre-existing conditions, are pregnant, under the age of 14, are elderly, or work outdoors. It isn’t just humans who are impacted, either, as pollutants can also be harmful to plants and animals.

With summer just a few weeks away, so is fire season. Last year wildfires devastated parts of British Columbia like never seen before, and it’s important to know about the effects that smoke inhalation can have on your health and take necessary precautions to protect yourself. You can find helpful emergency preparedness tips relating to forest fires and your health via HealthLink BC. It’s also important to pay close attention to the air quality index, either by watching local weather reports or by visiting the Government of British Columbia’s Air Quality website. For a list of active forest fires across the province, click here.

For more information on World Environment Day and to learn about different ways in which the environment can impact your health, check out the hashtag #WorldEnvironmentDay on Twitter. Don’t forge you can also follow Dr. Ali Ghahary on Twitter at @DrAliGhahary.