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How to Protect Your Children From Wildfire Smoke
By Cecilia Sierra-Heredia
We're very careful about what our kids eat, but what about the air they breathe?
During recent summers, children living on the West Coast of Canada have been breathing some of the most polluted air on record. This is due to seasonal wildfires, which have burned through vast zones of North America and affected even larger areas with their smoke.
The polluted air generated by wildfires is responsible for hazy skies, charcoal-like smells and a noticeable spike in people reporting trouble breathing.
The British Columbia government has just declared a state of emergency, as hundreds of fires burn across the province. And the state of California has been under a wildfire "siege" this summer.
Even when smoggy skies and unpleasant odours dissipate fairly quickly, the respiratory problems sparked by these fires can linger and in some cases become a serious, chronic condition.
From asthma to low birth weight
Research makes it clear that air pollution contributes to asthma development and causes asthma attacks.
Asthma is a chronic condition where certain parts of the lungs are seriously irritated and swollen when they're exposed to certain air components like ozone or particulate matter. This inflammation makes children wheeze or cough and have a harder time breathing. An asthma attack can become so severe that the patient needs immediate medical attention to avoid dying of suffocation.
Every child, regardless of how healthy he or she might be, is at a higher risk from the dangers of smog. Children breathe more air relative to their size than adults, inhaling a larger amount of pollutants than their caregivers.
The quality of the air your children breath may be harming the development of their respiratory system: Their nose, throat and lungs. The air that children breathe now can cause problems for years to come.
More Likely to Catch Colds
Even if children are not suffering from any respiratory problems, it is important to avoid exposing them to smog.
Air pollution can make children more likely to catch colds or to make colds last longer. Because the body is busy dealing with the inhaled pollutants, the response to virus or bacteria is not as good as it should be.
Just as we avoid exposing kids to too much candy even though it won't rot their teeth or cause diabetes within hours, we must limit the amount of smog our children breathe.
Individuals have little control over wildfires. However, caregivers can do many things to reduce their child's exposure to smog.
Seven Actions You Can Take
1. Monitor the air pollution levels in your community with the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI). AQHI is accessible though news, social media or apps (for iOS and Android).
2. Stay indoors as much as possible and avoid exercising or any intense physical activity outdoors when AQHI indicates dangerous levels.
3. Use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your house, or at least in the rooms where you spend most of your time. If you buy a portable one, you can place it in the living room throughout the day and then move it to your children's sleeping area at night.
4. If you cannot afford the purchase of a HEPA filter (or the subsequent increase in your power bill), try to spend time in indoor community spaces such as libraries, malls or community centers.
5. Avoid smoking inside your house. This is important every day, but it becomes especially relevant when smog levels are already off the charts.
6. If your child has been diagnosed with allergies or asthma, schedule a visit with their pediatrician before the wildfire season starts so that you can update their prescriptions and stock up on their medications.
7. Be observant of symptoms like wheezing, coughs or labored breathing, and any verbal complaints your child expresses. Take them to a walk-in clinic or an emergency department if necessary.
Current predictions are that we will experience wildfires more often, but the evidence indicates that limiting how much smog we breathe can prevent greater damage to our lungs—and a healthier and cleaner future for you and your children.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.
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Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.