By Letter to the Editor on April 23, 2020.
Thank you to the City of Lethbridge for helping our community respond to the COVID-19 situation. But a vital element is being overlooked: the need for everyone to have equal access to air that is as safe and healthy as possible.
Recent reports in The Guardian, The Washington Post and other leading news sources draw attention to the fact that air pollution makes the COVID-19 crisis worse. Air quality and public health experts are calling for strong reductions in air pollution, including the banning of wood fires. As a March 27 Globe & Mail article (“To help flatten the curve, let’s clean our air”) states: “We may have physically distanced ourselves, but we are all breathing the same air. Let’s do everything we can to keep that collective resource – and our collective health – free of pollution.”
In response to the pandemic, jurisdictions in Ontario, B.C. and elsewhere are banning and restricting burning because the toxic emissions lower immunity and harm respiratory health. Will our local government take the responsible and much-needed step of emphatically asking residents to avoid burning any wood, especially at this time? This could be done efficiently, inexpensively, and immediately via the City’s social media platforms and official website.
As part of local emergency measures, there should be bans on wood- and pellet-burning within city limits. Keeping this policy in place would also better safeguard air quality and citizen wellness going forward.
The World Health Organization affirms that breathing clean air is an essential human right. Now more than ever, this universal right must be protected and assured.