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Canada wildfires prompt US alerts: Here’s where the air is worst

By Lauren Sforza,

2023-06-07

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Wildfires near Montreal have prompted air quality alerts throughout the United States as major cities have become engulfed in a heavy haze and many with the smell of smoke.

According to AirNow , an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) service that monitors air quality, most of the East Coast is under moderate to unhealthy levels of air quality, as well as the Midwest near Chicago and Detroit. The EPA said that the hazy skies, reduced visibility and the odor of burning wood is “very likely” to continue in the northern states for days as the wildfires continue to burn.

Unhealthy levels of air quality can lead to health problems, especially for those in sensitive groups including children, the elderly and those with respiratory issues. The air quality alerts issued throughout the U.S. are triggered by the detection of fine-particle pollution, which is known as “PM 2.5” that can irritate the lungs.

Air quality levels over 150 are considered “unhealthy” and can start causing health issues even for healthy people, while levels over 200 are considered “very unhealthy” and can cause health issues for everyone, according to The Weather Channel.

Most of the Mid-Atlantic region, including New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore, reported “unhealthy” levels of air quality as of Wednesday morning. Some regions also included “very unhealthy” or “hazardous” levels of air quality.

New York City topped the list for the world’s worst air pollution during certain times Tuesday, as the smoke from the wildfires drifted south. According to IQair , New York City’s air quality index topped 200 on Tuesday night, a level that is described as “very unhealthy” by the monitoring group. At about 10 p.m. Tuesday, the Big Apple had the worst air quality of any metropolitan city in the world, IQair reported.

A baseball game in the Bronx on Tuesday evening showed an orange-tinted cloud of smoky haze hanging over Yankees Stadium, NorthJersey.com reported. As of Wednesday morning, New York City is still reporting “unhealthy” levels of air quality at an index of about 170.

Its neighboring states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania are also reporting “unhealthy” air quality, with most of the areas in the states under a red alert, which is an enhanced risk for wildfire spread.

New Jersey is also battling wildfires of its own, further decreasing the air quality in the state. A wildfire of about 70 acres in Ocean County was reported as 70 percent contained as of Wednesday morning by the New Jersey Forest Fire Service.

Detroit is reporting the fourth-worst levels of air quality out of major metropolitan cities around the world as of Wednesday morning. The area is seeing an index of 157, which is 13.4 times the World Health Organization annual air quality guideline value.

The only cities reporting air quality worse than Detroit from around the world are Dhaka, Bangladesh; New York City; and Delhi, India, according to IQair.

Chicago is also seeing the effects of the wildfires, with the National Weather Service in the area saying, “widespread ozone and or particulate levels are expected to be at or above the unhealthy for sensitive groups category of the air quality index.”

Areas near Philadelphia and Delaware are also reporting “very unhealthy” levels of air pollution, and Washington, D.C., is reporting “unhealthy” levels of air pollution, according to AirNow.

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