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Climate Change and Lung Health

Climate change and worsening air quality worldwide is becoming a health crisis. Rising temperatures increase the risks of air pollution and worsening air quality. While air pollutants have generally decreased over the last few years, more needs to be done. More than 15,000 Canadians die due to air pollution-related causes every year.

Canadians are already seeing how air pollution can be bad for their health. Exposure to air pollution can lead to coughing and wheezing, shortness of breath, getting infections more easily, lung tissue redness and swelling and lung cancer. It can also lead to worsening of existing lung diseases like asthma or COPD.

It is critical that action is taken to improve air quality and reduce the impact on lung health today and for future generations. The Canadian Lung Association engaged experts from across various fields to explore this issue and help us figure out our next steps.

What Canadians think about climate change and lung health

The Canadian Lung Association and Abacus Data surveyed more than 2,000 Canadians in January 2021 to find out their thoughts about climate change and openness to actions to create change.

While 30% of Canadians felt their health was directly impacted by the climate crisis; more than half said they were concerned for their future health and the health of future generations. 

Half don't think climate change is impacting their health but worry about its impact on future generations

Which of the following describes how climate change is affecting your health?

Climate change is directly affecting my health because of poor air quality and the higher risk of floods, forest fires or storms. 30 %
I don't think climate change is impacting my health but I worry about the future impacts on me and future generations. 55 %
I don't think climate change will have an important impact on my health. 15 %

Canadians are generally supportive of action that can decrease or limit the impact of the climate crisis and improve air quality. The top actions that Canadians were willing to take were to reduce energy use in their homes, purchase electric vehicles and invest in tools to monitor indoor and outdoor air quality.

Ways to improve air quality and protection from air pollution

Please select up to three things you would be willing to do to improve air quality and protect yourself and other Canadians from air pollution.

Take action to reduce energy use in your home. 57 %
Buy an electric vehicle. 37 %
Use tools that could help you monitor indoor and outdoor air quality. 33 %
Wear a mask during poor outdoor air quality/ air pollution. 32 %
Carpool or use public transportation. 29 %
Use air travel less. 24 %
Reduce use of wood stoves. 19 %
Use the Air Quality Health Index to reduce exposure to outdoor air pollution. 17 %
Would not do any of these. 9 %