Earth Friendly: Do your part for clean air

By Kate Garcia
May 23, 2013 at 12:23 a.m.

Who here remembers the D.A.R.E. program? If you went to elementary school here in Victoria in the late 80s or early 90s, you will probably know what I'm talking about. You want a way to get kids engaged and paying attention, you got it right here.

The school counselor would wheel in this white box that had lungs in it. One set was healthy, while the other, not so much.

The switch flips and "gross" was screamed in unison. Remember, we were like 6. Our vocabulary was pretty limited. It was a blackened lung from smoking. All I could think was "10-4. Message received." Smoking equals whatever it was struggling to inflate and deflate in that infamous white box.

Much like smoking, pollutants in the air can cause lung damage. While the average age groups might not be particularly affected, the younger and older age groups are very susceptible.

First of all, young children have lungs that are still maturing. They have not developed the full capability of handling foreign materials such as air pollutants. Not only are their lungs maturing, but their bodies are smaller and lower to the ground where this bad stuff hangs out.

Secondly, take a look at a child fresh from the playground. Notice anything besides the cowlick in their hair from the large amounts of sweat? For the most part, they are breathing through their mouth. The nose has a really important function; filtration. The nose filters out a good bit of crud that we breathe in.

Lastly, when it comes to my experience with kids as an after school counselor way back in high school, kids love to play outside. I mean, they would give their left arm to be outside playing dodgeball, kickball or any other sport ending in ball. This age group typically spends the largest amount of time outdoors.

As for the opposite age spectrum, senior citizens are dealing with declining health instead of maturing bodies. During the later years of life, certain pre-existing conditions may become aggravated by poor air quality including heart conditions, respiratory illness and asthma.

Regardless of age, air pollutants still inflict damage on our lungs. Bad thing is the part of the lung that is affected (the alveoli) is the same part that is responsible for transferring oxygen from our lungs to the red blood cells for transport throughout our bodies.

All in all, what does this mean? Actually, some pretty simple things in the grand scheme of it all. Carpool more. Idle your car less. Ride your bike instead of driving your car. Take a sack lunch with you to work. Take the bus once in a while. Combine errands.

Don't get too worried, though. Lung damage, especially of the sensitive groups (children and seniors), may not be to the extent of that dilapidated black lung in the awesome white box, but it's lung damage none the less.

Drive clean to breathe clean. That's not just a bunch of hot air.

Kate Garcia is the interim programs coordinator for the City of Victoria, Environmental Services.



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