As wildfires rage across Canada, dangerous air quality levels have put tens of millions of people in North America at risk. Numerous air quality warnings have been issued to alert people of the hazardous conditions.
Vast regions of Ontario and Quebec were covered with smoke, while a reddish-orange mist lingered over a significant portion of the northeastern United States from Tuesday to Wednesday.
During the night, both Toronto and New York were briefly categorized as cities with some of the poorest air quality across the globe.
The majority of the smoke is originating from Quebec due to the presence of 160 active fires in the area.
According to officials in Canada, the country is heading towards its most severe wildfire season ever.
According to specialists, the trend could be attributed to a spring that has been warmer and drier than usual. They predict that these weather conditions will persist throughout the summer season.
On Tuesday, Environment Canada declared that the air quality in Ottawa was at a "very high risk" and issued their most severe warning yet, stating that it poses a significant threat to the health of individuals.
The air quality in Toronto and the nearby regions was labeled as being of "high risk."
At present, the air quality in a significant portion of the north-eastern region of the United States has been categorized as "unhealthy" by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This is particularly concerning for individuals who already suffer from respiratory problems.
It is estimated that approximately 100 million individuals across North America are currently under some type of air quality advisory.
The city of New York was covered in a hazy layer of orange that obscured the view of the skyline and famous landmarks, such as the Statue of Liberty.
The Mayor of the city, Eric Adams, has declared that all outdoor activities in public schools will be put on hold until further notice due to the possibility of worsening weather conditions later in the day.
He advised New Yorkers to minimize their time spent outside as much as they can.
According to people living in the city, the scent of smoke on Wednesday morning resembled that of a bonfire.
The air quality in Washington DC was marked as "code red" on Wednesday morning, indicating poor air quality. Additionally, Detroit was ranked as the fifth most polluted city in the world on IQAir’s air pollution rankings.
Authorities in charge of public health have advised individuals to limit their outdoor exercise and decrease their inhalation of the smoke to avoid potential health hazards in the short and long term.
The air quality in Quebec has become worse, causing the Atikamekw community of Opitciwan, which is located 350km (217 miles) north of Montreal, to relocate individuals with asthma and other respiratory problems due to the smoke.
Wildfires in Canada have ravaged over 3.3 million hectares of land, which is 12 times the average for this season over the past decade.
Numerous individuals have been forced to leave their homes and move to safer locations
In addition to Quebec, fires of significant size have been occurring in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and the Northwest Territories.
The likelihood of wildfires is increased due to hot and dry weather, which is a result of climate change.
Since the start of the industrial era, the Earth has experienced a rise in temperature of approximately 1.2C. Without significant reductions in worldwide emissions, this trend will continue. It is up to governments globally to take action in order to address
What are the health effects of wildfire smoke? According to experts, being exposed to wildfire smoke can lead to a variety of health problems.
According to Matthew Adams, who is a professor at the University of Toronto and leads its Centre of Urban Environments, breathing in smoke from wildfires can cause immediate health issues such as difficulty breathing, a faster heartbeat, discomfort in the chest, or irritation in the eyes, nose, and throat.
Professor Adams has stated that during days with high air pollution, there is a rise in the number of hospital visits. These visits often involve individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions.
According to Prof Adams, frequent exposure to wildfire smoke can lead to severe health problems such as cancer or lung disease. This is particularly true for individuals residing in regions that frequently experience forest fires.
According to him, the smoke haze contains tiny particles that can get into the bloodstream and other parts of the body, leading to potential DNA mutations and other health concerns.
According to Professor Adams, research indicates that pregnant women and their unborn children can be adversely impacted by extended exposure to smoke from wildfires.
Prof Adams recommended that individuals residing in cities that are not near the wildfires but are currently under air advisories should restrict outdoor physical activities to prevent inhaling the smoke from the fires.
He advised not to worry too much and suggested staying indoors to minimize the risk of exposure.
Professor Adams advised people living in close proximity to the fires to wear an N95 mask when going outside to prevent the inhalation of the majority of smoke particles.
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