Lead and our health

Lead is extremely toxic and poses a very dangerous health risk to people. It can lead to brain damage and learning difficulties.  Children are especially vulnerable to this toxin.  During the Industrial Revolution the use of lead was prevalent and also during the 1920s when lead was added to gasoline. There is an excellent article in the Jan./Feb. 2013 issue of Mother Jones linking violent crime, lower IQs and lead throughout the 20th century.

In Canada unleaded gasoline was introduced in 1975 and leaded gasoline was finally phased out by 1990.   Because lead concentrations in our air have declined since the 1970s, the blood lead levels of Canadians have also seen a steady decline by about 70%.  However, lead exposure is still something we should be aware of, since, for example, it can be found in soil and in older homes due to leaded paint.  See the Health Canada website for information on how to minimize your risks when renovating older homes.  And to find out more about how you can limit your exposure to this dangerous substance, click here.

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Air quality and idling

Idling our cars to warm up the engines is standard practice during the cold days of winter, but how long is too long?  Government guidelines recommend no more than two to three minutes of idling on cold winter days.  Using a block heater, if you have one, helps with cold starts.  Also, the wise use of remote car starters is important in avoiding excessively long warm ups.

Not only does idling waste fuel, it also contributes to air pollution.  Health Canada estimates more than 5,000 Canadians die prematurely each year because of air pollution and children are the most vulnerable.

For more information on idling and air quality, click here.

Carbon tax or cap-and-trade?

We hear the terms “carbon tax” and “cap-and-trade” quite a lot these days, but what exactly do they mean?

In a nutshell, a carbon tax is a fee placed on greenhouse gas pollution resulting mainly from burning fossil fuels. It is one of the most powerful incentives governments have to discourage industries and households from emitting greenhouse gases.  In so doing, governments encourage greener technologies and practices.  In Canada, B.C. and Quebec use carbon taxes to reduce emissions.

In a cap-and-trade system, governments put a firm limit, or cap, on the level  of carbon pollution by industry and reduce that cap each year until they reach a set pollution target.  Companies thus have a real incentive to adopt greener technologies and support clean energy.  For example, since the early 1980s, cap-and-trade has reduced acid rain-forming emissions by nearly half.

To learn more about them, click here.

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For a timely discussion on energy and ecology, take a look at one of our library’s books entitled Life without oil : why we must shift to a new energy future by Steve Hallett.  He offers a realistic vision of the near future and many important lessons about the limits of our resources.     363.7571 H186

The Air We Breathe

Air Pollution Smoke Stack by EnvironmentBlogDaily smog warnings were issued for the Montreal area for more than a week in mid-November.   As reported in The Gazette,  because there was little wind to disperse air pollution from industry, vehicles and wood-burning, pollutants accumulated producing a layer of smog over the island.  Smog poses a health risk to people with respiratory or cardiac conditions, as well as to the elderly and children.

Monitoring air quality is vital to our well-being and to the environment.  For information on a pilot project measuring the air quality health index in Montreal, click here.   Environment Canada also issues an Air Quality Health Index.

For information from the Canadian Lung Association on what you can do to control outdoor air quality, click here.