Access to safe water and quality indoor air
Access to safe water and quality indoor air is important for the health of any community. Having clean air and quality drinking water is among the simplest and most taken for granted things we have.
Poor indoor air quality is linked to asthma, which has become an increasing concern for First Nations and Inuit children. Often forced to live through long winters in close living conditions, poor indoor air quality over time has lead to high rates of asthma in many of these communities. Among the contributing factors to poor indoor air quality are poor ventilation, wood stoves, smoking, dust mites and mould. NAHO recognizes that there are many contributing factors to the disproportionate rates of asthma in First Nations and Inuit communities. Fortunately, First Nations and Inuit can take steps to help their children breathe easier. Opening windows and doors regularly; smoking and keeping paints and chemicals outside; cleaning regularly, especially mattresses where dust mites hide all help improve the quality of the air that greatly impacts children’s lungs.
Information relating to water quality and safety as well as indoor air quality is available. The First Nations Centre (FNC) of the National Aboriginal Health Organization (NAHO) has launched two fact sheet series which includes information regarding the importance of good air quality; signs of bad indoor air; how to reduce the risk of breathing bad air at home; types of water pollution; water management on-reserve; and personal best practices.
The First Nations Centre provides evidence-based research on issues affecting First Nations peoples across Canada. The diversity of the subject matter of these two fact sheet series reflects how health issues in First Nations communities are spread throughout the population. Our goal is for these fact sheets to be used by policy makers, Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers, health care providers, students, media, non-governmental organizations, and international organizations to lessen health risks in these specific areas.
Under the Aboriginal Housing Program, Habitat for Humanity affiliates across Canada are working with Aboriginal organizations and families to address shortages in housing. Similarly, the Centre for Environment Health Equity is working on communicating and collaborating with respiratory-disease-affected communities
Sadly, as many First Nations and Inuit communities are aware, good air quality and safe water are things of the past. Former Auditor general Sheila Fraser has noted that a “disproportionate number of First Nations people still lack the most basic services that other Canadians take for granted.” The Government has launched the Protocol for Safe Drinking Water in First Nations Communities, one measure among others to address drinking water issues.
There must be more done immediately to decrease the rates of asthma among First Nations and Inuit children and increase access to safe drinking water. As we work to improve the air and water quality for us all, it is often the smallest steps which can have the biggest impact.
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