We are entitled to clean air


Letter by Cathy Baiton, Printed in The Lethbridge Herald – Letters, June 28, 2017

Last evening air pollution kept some residents on/near 13 Street South inside.

When someone lights a wood fire in a residential zone (and there are always cleaner, smoke-free, non-wood burning alternatives), that person affects air quality for fellow citizens, often up to two or more blocks away – and impinges unfairly on neighbours’ peaceful enjoyment of their own properties. Current local legislation lets a wood-burning appliance owner dictate whether or not people in homes all around can safely and comfortably visit, read, exercise, garden, play with their kids or grandchildren outside, or even open their own windows and doors.

Whether the appliance is an expensive, “certified” smoke-producing wood or pellet stove, or a $35 wood burning fire pit, no price can ever be placed on protecting public health. And no amount of money could ever undo a health issue or potentially fatal asthma attack brought on by someone’s wood burning, which should never be done or permitted in neighbourhoods, where everyone shares the air. Should it be up to a polluter to decide if or when all children and other vulnerable residents living nearby or downwind get to breathe air that’s healthy?

Breathing clean air is an essential human right, a right recognized and affirmed by the United Nations. Why is everyone’s right to a healthy environment not yet protected here?

Local officials ensure that residents have clean water to drink. When will the city uphold a similar high standard when it comes to the air that people breathe? Clean air matters. So does community health. And positive changes are needed now.