Year of the Lungs

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 44, No. 2, March 2002, Pages 61-64 Editorials

Medicine is such an intense occupation that often I find that my body has made the transition from work to home faster than my brain. Such a situation occurred recently: I was reading some Christmas cards and the phrase “and the best in ’02” triggered a schizoid “what has oxygen to do with Christmas?” I enjoyed a good chuckle at my own expense and then began to think that maybe it’s time that we had a Year of the Lungs. What better year than ’02?

The lungs are the only major organ in the body that continuously expose an absorptive surface to the external environment. As a result they are very susceptible to environmental toxins, irritants, and carcinogens. My challenge to you, colleagues, is to make this the year that you expend a little extra effort in support of these most vital of organs by working on your immediate environment.

Over the last 25 years or so, tremendous strides have been made in getting cigarette smoke out of the public environment. However, there are still many places, especially in rural BC, where the indoor air could be a great deal less smoky. Search out these areas and give your support to making them smoke free. Less attention has been paid to other irritants in our indoor environment: chief among these are perfumes, colognes, and other fragrances. Make the Year of the Lungs the year that your office becomes scent free—your asthmatics will love you for it!

Outdoor air quality is a tougher problem, but there are many possibilities here as well. Smoke from forest fires is hard to stop, but smoke from everything—from beehive burners to wood-burning fireplaces—contributes to the poor air quality in many BC communities, especially in winter. Speak out in your community. Burning wood is cheap in the short term but will cost us dearly in the long term.

Finally, unless you really need to drive through drifts of snow, leave your SUV at home and drive a fuel-efficient car. Better yet, walk, take the bus, or ride a bike. SUVs are very inefficient users of gasoline and contribute enormously to pollution, especially in the Lower Mainland where most of them are used to drive from home to work on streets that are bare, albeit wet, most of the time.

Now, before you purists remind me that it is officially the Year of the Horse I will claim editorial privilege and declare 2002 the Year of the Lungs—after all, horses have lungs too!


Lindsay M. Lawson, MD. Year of the Lungs. BCMJ, Vol. 44, No. 2, March, 2002, Page(s) 61-64 - Editorials.

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