VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – You don’t often hear doctors wade into the debate about climate change, but a new campaign is being driven by health care professionals.
A group of physicians want British Columbians to think twice about their natural gas consumption.
The campaign is called Switch it Up – and encourages homeowners to move to electrical kitchen appliances and home heating methods.
Melissa Lem is a Vancouver family physician and a clinical assistant professor at UBC in department of medicine. She’s also a board member of Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.
“Doctors are behind Switch-it Up BC because we care about public health and climate change, and both of them take centre stage in the campaign,” she notes.
She says few British Columbians realize natural gas is a fossil fuel.
The way it’s drawn out of the ground is controversial. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, uses chemicals and water pumped with high pressures into deep wells to extract oil and gas. Some studies suggest the process impacts the health of people in the vicinity.
“Research shows it pollutes the land, water and air and can cause cancer and fatal lung diseases for people who live nearby. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the province they pay their bills every month and they think the gas is natural,” says Lem.
Once natural gas is in your home, it can generate air pollutants. Health Canada says a gas stove can produce nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide, which can worsen lung and heart conditions like asthma and chronic obstructive pulomonary disease.
“In 2015, Health Canada updated its guidelines for safe exposure which are now the strictest in the world. Unfortunately, it’s now impossible for gas stoves to meet the guidelines,” she points out.
The doctors are drawing attention to the fact natural gas produces greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the campaign, last year the amount of natural gas consumed in BC homes for heat, hot water, and cooking contributed the same amount of climate pollution as 870,000 vehicles on the roads and that number is rising. The campaign says an additional 10,000 BC homes hooked up to natural gas last year.
“We are trying to inform people that when it’s time to replace the furnace or remodel their kitchen, there are clean, 100 per cent electric alternatives that don’t emit into their kitchen or into the atmosphere,” says Lem.
The City of Vancouver has already taken action to reduce the amount of natural gas used in homes and businesses. Starting in 2022, the city will require new homes to have zero emissions space and water heating systems.