Wednesday, September 27, 2023
Courthouse News Service
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Canadian wildfires spread dirty smoke into US, fouling air quality

Millions of people on the East Coast are being told to stay indoors because an exhausting wildfire season in Canada has sent a toxic haze blowing south.

(CN) — Blanketed in smoke brought by wildfires in Quebec and northern Ontario, much of the East Coast from New England to the Carolinas faced air quality advisories Wednesday.

The Environmental Protection Agency warned Americans that the air quality in these regions was considered Code Red or “unhealthy” for the general population on its data-reporting site AirNow

As of 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, some regions of New York and Pennsylvania scored even lower ratings. With areas such as Syracuse, New York, showing a Code Maroon, or “hazardous” air quality score at the uppermost end of the EPA’s quality index scale. Just below that in Code Purple, or “very unhealthy,” were areas like Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Rochester, New York. 

“Hazy skies, reduced visibility, and the odor of burning wood is very likely as the smoke plumes are transported over the region,” the EPA's New England region announced Wednesday, warning residents of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island of increased air particulate.

The agency recommended that people with preexisting medical conditions remain indoors with windows closed and that all Americans in the region refrain from strenuous outdoor activity since exposure to elevated fine particle pollution levels can affect both the lungs and heart — and could possibly instigate breathing problems or asthma.

Across Canada, meanwhile, residents are being parts of Quebec, where more than 100 active fires were considered out of control Tuesday. Canadian officials have said this year's wildfire season, already weeks underway, will likely be its worst ever.

With little rain forecast over the coming days, the U.S. National Weather Service forecast Wednesday that smoke and haze from wildfires will continue to work its way across eastern Canada and into the eastern U.S.

“Elevated to critical fire weather conditions can be expected from the Great Lakes to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast,” the service said.

This AirNow map shows poor U.S. air quality throughout the eastern U.S. due to wildfires in Canada. (Screenshot by Courthouse News)

Behind Delhi, India and Dubai, New York City ranked third in the world among major cities for the worst air quality worldwide around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to the Swiss air monitoring company, IQAir.

“Currently, we are taking precautions out of an abundance of caution to protect New Yorkers’ health until we are able to get a better sense of future air quality reports. We recommend all New Yorkers limit outdoor activity to the greatest extent possible,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said Wednesday in a statement about the fires.

While the Big Apple kept its public schools open, it canceled all outdoor after school activities

Philadelphia, Washington and other major cities in Code Red face stay-indoor advisories as well until the air quality improves.

“Avoid outdoor activities wherever possible,” the Department of Energy & Environment for the nation's capital tweeted Wednesday.

“Residents in the area should take precautions to avoid unnecessary exposure to smoke and avoid activities that may increase the amount of particulate matter in the air,” Philadelphia's Department of Public Health warned in its own statement.

Further west, areas in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana are also experiencing Code Red air quality ratings due to the smoke.

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Categories / Environment, National, Regional, Weather

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