Doctors Offer Smog-Wise Health Tips

    2007 has record-high number of poor-air days to date

    TORONTO, June 26 /CNW/ - Given that 28 smog days have already been
recorded so far this year, Ontario's physicians are asking people to
understand the impact smog can have on their health and to take appropriate
measures to stay healthy during smog alerts.
    "Heat and humidity increase the risk that our breathing will be affected
by smog," said Dr. Janice Willett, President of the Ontario Medical
Association (OMA). "Physicians treat patients every day suffering smog-related
illnesses, so we're urging people to take preventative measures."
    Smog, a complex mixture of pollutants, often covers large areas of
Ontario, so even those who live outside of cities and industrial centres are
not immune to its dangers. Smog has a wide range of health impacts ranging
from minor irritations of the eyes and throat, to serious breathing distress
and even cardiac arrest.
    Here are a few quick tips on how to avoid the dangers of smog:

    -   Plan to reduce your exposure by getting informed about when smog
        levels are highest and watching for smog advisories.
    -   Reduce strenuous activities when smog is at its worst.
    -   As smog often coincides with heat, drink lots of fluid to stay
    -   If you are enjoying an outdoor activity, take lots of rest-breaks.
    -   If you have a cardiac or respiratory condition that makes you
        especially vulnerable to the effects of smog, staying in a cool,
        clean, air-conditioned environment may be appropriate.
    -   If you do not have access to an air-conditioned environment, find a
        shaded area away from traffic.
    -   Know your limits and pay attention to how you are feeling.

    "Children and the elderly are the most sensitive to smog
related-illnesses, but anyone can become ill if they don't take appropriate
precautions during smoggy weather," said Dr. Willett. "We don't want people to
alter their lives dramatically during a smog alert, but listen to what your
body is telling you and adjust your physical activity accordingly."
    2007 is currently on track with Ontario's smoggiest year yet, which was
2005, when the province recorded 60 smog days. So far this year there have
been 28 smog days, according to the Ministry of the Environment's Air Quality
    Please see the OMA Smog Myths & Health Realities fact sheet to find out
more about smog.

    Smog Myths and Health Realities

    Smog Myth No.1 - Smog only affects asthmatics and those suffering from
    other major respiratory conditions.

    Health Reality - Smog can affect everyone. Certain groups of people are
at a greater health risk including children, seniors, people with preexisting
lung and heart conditions and people who work and exercise outdoors. Although
smog makes asthmatics and others with respiratory conditions ill every year,
smog-related deaths are more often the result of cardiac causes than
respiratory ones. This is of particular concern because many people with heart
conditions are not aware of them, or that they are more vulnerable to smog.

    Smog Myth No.2 - As long as there is no Smog Alert, it is perfectly safe
    for everyone.

    Health Reality - Smog advisories or alerts are usually issued by the
Ministry of the Environment when high smog levels are expected to persist over
a large area. As there is no threshold for smog's health impact, such alerts
cannot be fully protective of those in the population who are most vulnerable.
Many asthmatics, for instance, feel the impact of pollution at levels well
below the smog alert level.

    Smog Myth No.3 - Since running the air conditioner will contribute to
    pollution, everyone should turn theirs off.

    Health Reality - Although air conditioners do contribute to smog and
shouldn't be abused, they are also an important defence against the combined
effects of heat, allergens and pollution. If you have a known cardiac or
respiratory condition, are young or elderly or are suffering the effects of
dirty air, getting into a cool, clean environment is recommended.

    Smog Myth No.4 - If it's smoggy, all sporting events and outdoor
    activities should be cancelled.

    Health Reality - In most cases the benefits of physical activity outweigh
the dangers of smog for healthy adults and children alike. Use your common
sense, monitor your activities and those of your family. Reduce your exertion,
schedule rest breaks and stay hydrated, but pay special attention to those
with pre-existing health conditions. Toning down outdoor activities may be
appropriate in the smog, eliminating them altogether is seldom necessary.
Generally speaking, rescheduling strenuous activities to earlier in the day
when the pollution levels are lower is also a good option.

    Please see a physician if you are unsure of your health, or need advice
on how to manage a pre-existing medical condition.

For further information:

For further information: OMA Media Relations at (416) 340-2862 or
toll-free at 1-800-268-7215

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