The Healthy Communities Campaign
Your Environment. Your Community. Your Health.
Climate change has profound impacts on our social, built and natural environments. This influences environmental factors that shape our health, from clean air and drinking water, to exposure to harmful substances and diseases. Pollution Probe’s Healthy Communities Campaign is a free, easy-to-join initiative for workplaces, providing valuable information about what you can do to reduce the health effects associated with climate change – such as tips for preventing Lyme disease, coping with extreme heat, and minimizing risk of cardiovascular disease from air pollution. We offer monthly workplace newsletters inserts, lunch-and-learn tools, custom articles and more.
Let’s take action together to protect our health in a changing climate!
Climate Change, Extreme Weather and Health
As our climate changes, extreme weather events occur more frequently and with more intensity. Understanding how these weather events can affect your health is a first step towards taking protective action. For example:
Periods of extreme heat can trigger cardiovascular and respiratory disease, and in some cases can be fatal. Elderly populations are especially vulnerable – and factors including housing conditions, availability of air conditioning, and general health can also play a role.
What you can do: protect yourself from the heat!
- Plan ahead to keep cool: The best defence against heat -related illness is prevention — stay cool inside an air conditioned building, even if it is just for a couple of hours a day. If your home does not have air conditioning, choose other places that you can go to get relief from the heat (e.g., shopping malls, libraries or theatres). Timing is key: If you must be outside, limit your activities and don’t plan to do them during the warmest part of the day (between 11 am and 4 pm).
- Water intake: Increase your water intake even if you don’t feel thirsty (and be aware that alcoholic drinks are dehydrating).
- Dress for heat: Wear lightweight, light-coloured clothing. Protect your face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen!
- Listen: Listen to weather reports for “Humidex Advisories” issued by Environment Canada, and avoid unnecessary outdoor activities when the humidex is above 40˚C. Advisories are issued when temperatures are expected to exceed 30˚C, and when humidex values are expected to exceed 40˚C.
FYI: Humidex is a measure of how hot we feel, taking into account the combined effect of temperature and humidity.
Flooding is predicted to become a greater threat to communities across Canada, as rainfall becomes more intense and more irregular. In addition to damaging buildings and infrastructure, flooding impacts our water supply systems through an increase in stormwater runoff and sewer overflows. When sewer overflows occur, harmful pollutants (including pharmaceuticals, flame retardants, and heavy metals such as cadmium, lead, mercury, silver, and zinc), as well as bacteria, viruses and other pathogens, can make their way into lakes and rivers and can pose serious risks for human health. This increases the burden on drinking water treatment facilities, and can make water bodies unsuitable for recreational activities.
What you can do: reduce runoff and watch what you flush
- Redirect your downspout: Help reduce stormwater overflows and runoff by connecting your downspout to a rain barrel or allow it to drain to a permeable surface.
- Increase permeable surfaces: Choose permeable surfaces for driveways and walkways (this minimizes flash floods and stormwater runoff) such as gravel, wood chips, punctured concrete, or porous forms of concrete.
- Watch what you flush: Learn what shouldn’t go down the drain and take the “I don’t flush” pledge at idontflush.ca
Links and Resources
• Health Canada extreme heat information: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/environmental-workplace-health/reports-publications/climate-change-health/communicating-health-risks-extreme-heat-events-toolkit-public-health-emergency-management-officials-health-canada-2011.html#a1.1
• US Center for Disease Control extreme heat information: https://www.cdc.gov/climateandhealth/pubs/extreme-heat-final_508.pdf
• Pollution Probe Primer on Climate Change and Human Health: http://www.pollutionprobe.org/publications/primer-on-climate-change-and-human-health/
• Pollution Probe Great Lakes Fact Sheet #12: Wastewater Management: http://www.pollutionprobe.org/publications/great-lakes-fact-sheet-12-wastewater-management/
• I don’t flush campaign: I don’t flush campaign: http://idontflush.ca