Truck News


Preventive Maintenance: Take care of your air

Isn't it nice to finally drive down the road with your elbow sticking out the window, and the wind blowing through your hair? You've waited a long time for beautiful weather to come along. There's not...

Isn’t it nice to finally drive down the road with your elbow sticking out the window, and the wind blowing through your hair? You’ve waited a long time for beautiful weather to come along. There’s nothing better than breathing in the fresh air as you’re rolling along. Right?

Well, what exactly are you breathing in? And how healthy is that air? According to a recent Health Canada report, air pollution is killing more Canadians than previously thought.

Eight Canadian cities were recently used as test sites to gather data and look at the effect air pollution is having on all of us. According to the numbers, almost 6,000 Canadians die every year from the effects of air pollution. The cities used in this study were Ottawa, Toronto, Windsor, Hamilton, Quebec City, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary.

This air pollution affects your respiratory system. Fine particles of pollutants enter the lungs causing shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing and can be especially harmful to those with other conditions, like asthma, chronic respiratory disorder or heart or lung disease.

In Canada, respiratory disease, along with heart disorders make up 25 per cent of all hospital stays and nearly 50 per cent of all deaths. A recent study found that about 1,900 people die prematurely in Ontario each year because of smog-related respiratory problems.

What can you do to protect yourself? Be aware. It’s good to exercise, but when you decide to do it, choose the right time. Early morning is best, before the smog is heavy. On smoggy days, don’t exercise outdoors in the afternoon and early evening when smog is the thickest.

The ‘fine’ particles in smog are the most dangerous. They’re only about 1/20th the width of human hair and are so small that they keep floating around in the air (for several weeks). When you breathe them in, they travel deep into your lungs and damage the cells that transfer oxygen to the blood. They can also carry other toxins along with them.

The larger, heavier smog particles tend to settle to the ground by themselves within a day or so after being emitted. You will only breathe them on their way to the ground. So once they’ve settled, most of the danger has passed.

However, even healthy adults can be affected by the high concentrations of the toxins found in smog. And exposure to low concentrations of ozone for a prolonged time during moderate exercise can reduce lung function, causing chest pain, nausea, coughing and pulmonary congestion. If you start having these problems, take it easy.

Be smart. If there’s a smog advisory, stay inside if you can, especially if you already have trouble with your heart or lungs. That said, as a trucker, you don’t have the luxury of choosing whether or not to stay inside during a smog alert. And what about idling on the many bridges leading to the States? Lines of vehicles, patiently waiting to cross, belch out a fair bit of air pollution. Never mind about getting stuck in traffic while travelling across Toronto during rush hour. We all know that your load has to be delivered, and detours cost time and money!

For you, exposure to air pollution can not be avoided. So how can you protect yourself? Build up your immunity.

First, drink plenty of water. Not just because it’s getting hotter and you’re sweating more, but your body needs the liquid to carry poisons out of your system. As well, eat foods that counter-act the toxins you’re breathing in. These foods will help keep your body flushed:

1. Fruits and vegetables that are deeply coloured: carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, cantaloupe, pumpkin, tea, wine, oregano and apricots. These act as antioxidants.

2. Citrus fruits trigger an enzyme that helps your body excrete cancer-causing materials.

3. Garlic, onions, leeks and chives stop your body from improperly breaking down fats and also block the formation of some cancers.

4. Cauliflower, cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts protect against cancer.

5. Grapes grab cancer causing materials and wash them out.

6. Soy/legumes slow tumour growth by suppressing enzyme production.

7. Oats, soybeans and fruits, such as blueberries, prunes, and grapes trigger an enzyme that causes cancer-causing materials to break down in water, making them easier to excrete.

8. Grains bind minerals, stopping free-radical from forming.

When you’re out of the city, roll down the windows and enjoy the fresh air. But when driving through the city, be more careful.

Don’t sit idling with your windows down (hopefully your air’s working).

And be sure to take in the foods (and water) your body needs to keep the toxins flushed.

– Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant and she can be reached by e-mail at

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