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Illness cost of air pollution underscores need for lung health action plan: The Lung Association

August 13, 2008

(Ottawa) – The National Illness Cost of Air Pollution (ICAP) study, released today by the Canadian Medical Association, is clear evidence that action is required on air pollution and that a national strategy for lung health is needed now more than ever. The study measures the national health and economic impact of air pollution and puts a dollar figure on the health care related costs of air pollution in Canada. The national study includes ICAP software models for ten provinces and estimates of health damages at the national level.

"Air pollution is a very real threat to the health and well-being of Canadians of all ages," said Kenneth Maybee, Chair of Environmental Issues, The Lung Association, "The data from the ICAP study is clear: we need concrete and real action on air pollution and a national action plan on lung health, if we are to stem the thousands of deaths that occur annually as a direct result of both short and long-term exposure to pollutants".

The study found that:

- In 2008, 21,000 Canadians will die from the effects of air pollution, a figure projected to rise to 710,000 by 2031;

- Respiratory illness accounted for nearly 40% of hospital admissions associated with exposure to air pollution;

- Respiratory diseases account for approximately 40% of the 92,000 emergency department visits in 2008 linked to air pollution – a figure projected to rise to 152,000 by 2031;

- Over 20 million minor illnesses will be attributed to air pollution in 2008 and that number will climb to over 26 million by 2031;

- Approximately 45% of minor illnesses will require restricted activity or asthma symptom days potentially resulting in absenteeism from work or school. This supports findings released in May 2008 by The Lung Association that found that 62 per cent of Canadians with asthma say their asthma "acts up" on days when air quality is poor.

"The ICAP study is a valuable tool to health organizations and public policy makers as we move forward on building a healthier environment for Canadians," said Nora Sobolov, President and CEO of The Lung Association, "The ICAP study re-enforces the very real need for a strategy that deals with both environmental impacts and their health outcomes.

The Lung Association, the federal government and stakeholders nationwide, are nearing the completion of a national action plan that will improve the lung health of Canadians. The study will be particularly valuable as a resource tool in ensuring that the Framework is responsive to the one in five Canadians suffering from respiratory diseases, and the environmental effects that may exacerbate them.

The National Lung Health Framework is an ambitious plan that will lower rates of lung disease and clean up the air Canadians breathe through strong environmental action and policies, treatment and diagnosis programs and cutting edge research to position Canada as a world leader in the fight against lung disease. The ICAP study is additional evidence demonstrating why action on the environment – and lung health – is so critical to the health of Canadians.

Established in 1900, The Lung Association is one of Canada´s oldest and most respected health charities, and the leading national organization for science-based information, research, education, support programs and advocacy on lung heath issues.

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For more information, media representatives may contact:

Cameron Bishop
Director of Government Affairs and Media Relations
The Lung Association
613-569-6411, ext, 223

For more information contact:
Cameron Bishop
Director of Government Affairs and Media Relations
The Canadian Lung Association
Phone: 613-569-6411, ext. 223

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