By Letter to the Editor on May 30, 2020.
Near the start of the pandemic, my son and I saw a “We are all in this together” sign in the front window of a long-term care residence, on an evening when that neighbourhood’s air was permeated with toxic smoke from backyard fires.
An April 24 Lethbridge Herald article reported that “City Council encourages residents to celebrate Canada Day in their own backyards this year.” But can residents enjoy fresh air in their yards? The atmosphere doesn’t recognize fences. One wood fire can pollute a neighbourhood, potentially harming a patient recovering from COVID-19, an asthmatic child, or a grandparent living with COPD.
If there was ever a time to care about air quality and the well-being of others it’s now, amid a virus that attacks the lungs. A silver lining of the crisis is the emergence of widespread concern about providing for everyone’s needs and helping those most vulnerable, a new shift “from me to we.” In 2020, will municipal leaders make public wellness a top priority?
As Dr. Maria Neira of the World Health Organization said in a recent interview with the editor of Air Quality News Magazine (Issue 3, May 2020) on reducing air pollution as much as possible, “My invitation to mayors is the sooner you do it, and the more ambitious you are, you will be accountable for an important health benefit for your citizens. Think about that. If you postpone by one year, you will postpone the reduction of deaths. I hope this will be a motivation.”
We truly are all in this together. We all share the air. As studies have shown, wood-burning bans save lives. It would be helpful, caring, and responsible, especially at this time, if city officials were to encourage people to avoid burning wood in residential areas, so everyone can breathe safe, healthy air on July 1 and every day.