Okotoks healthy option for family
Flood: Concerns about air quality for young son
By: Bruce Campbell
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 04, 2013 06:00 am
A High River family has temporarily moved to Okotoks to provide an ailing child a breath of fresh air.
Kristal and Chris Martin moved to Okotoks because of their child’s respiratory problems and concerns about air quality at their High River home after it was hit by the June 20 flood — the birthday for their son three-year-old son Dawson.
“He has Angelman’s syndrome but he also goes into respiratory distress very quickly,” Kristal said. “He had been in an out of the hospital since February and we got him home on June 7. His birthday was flood day and two days later he ended up back in the hospital.”
They were advised at the Alberta Children’s Hospital it wasn’t safe for Dawson to be in the town the Martins have grown to love.
“They said right now it just isn’t very safe here (for him) especially with airborne stuff and people doing renos — so we moved,” Kristal said. “High River is home — we love High River. We have four children, we work here and we are very involved in the community.
“But when it comes to the health of our children, it wasn’t a difficult decision.”
The Martins run a catering business in High River which was hit by the flood. The June 20 flood was the opening day of the Guy Weadick Rodeo and chuckwagon races — one of the busiest times of the year for a catering business.
As well their home was labeled orange — meaning significant basement damage but it could be saved.
Kristal said they could return to High River in the future when the dust literally settles.
“I don’t know what the air quality is in High River,” Kristal said. “I just value the opinion of the people who saved my son’s life… I still call High River home, I have been there for 15 years.
“I just want to make sure he is safe.”
She added she looked at the air quality graph on the Town of High River web site, but wasn’t able to read it.
“I didn’t understand it,” she said.
Dr. Brian Jensen said for healthy individuals, he has no concerns about the air quality in High River.
“If you are out for a run for example, and it is really dusty, I’m sure you notice it is irritating to breathe,” said Jensen, who lives and practices in High River. “So, if you are a well person it is a pain in the neck, if you are asthmatic, have bad lungs or smoke like a chimney it is really uncomfortable and maybe worse… people with lung disease can be bothered by particulates and any carbon molecule — and moulds are living things.”
Just because a home has mould, doesn’t necessarily means the house is toxic.
He said while some forms of moulds will produce toxins, 99 per cent don’t.
Jeff Gaulin, vice-president of marketing and communications for Tervita, the company hired by the Province to help remediate High River, said it will provide air testing at High River homes.
“With the homes, when we do the assessment we do it (air testing) inside,” Gaulin said.
He said residents can call the Tervita hotline to request an assessment.
Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development has been monitoring the air in various points of High River with ‘E-bombs.’
“In the week of July 18, Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development deployed monitors which we called E-bombs, and they were deployed in High River,” said Ogha Ikhalo, Alberta Environment spokesman.
“These e-bomb continuously monitor particulate matter,” she said.
Ikhalo added particulate matter is the key element which makes up the air quality health index.
“It is the key air pollutant that is key to a person’s health,” Ikhalo said.
Ikhalo said readings show the levels in High River are well below ambient air quality guideline. (The red line is the guideline on the High River graph. Anything above that guideline would be of concern).
However, she stressed families and individuals know best how to monitor individual health issues, such as asthma or other respiratory issues.
“People know the most appropriate steps to protect their health,” she said. “We ask people to be aware and take the appropriate steps to protect their health.”
She said anyone with health concerns should contact Alberta Health or their physicians.
To look at the Alberta Environment graphs to go www.highriver.ca