As a result of raging wildfires in Canada, a large number of people in North America have been alerted to hazardous air quality levels. This includes tens of millions of individuals who are at risk due to the intensity of the fires.
Smoke covered extensive regions of Ontario and Quebec, and a hue of orange lingered over a significant portion of the north-eastern United States from Tuesday to Wednesday.
During the night, Toronto and New York were briefly considered among the metropolitan regions with the poorest air quality worldwide.
The majority of the smoke is originating from Quebec due to the presence of approximately 160 active fires in the region.
According to officials in Canada, the country is headed towards its most severe wildfire season ever recorded.
Specialists have noted that a spring with higher temperatures and less rainfall than usual is the cause of this pattern. It is anticipated that these circumstances will persist all through the summer season.
On Tuesday, Environment Canada declared a severe air quality warning for Ottawa, categorizing it as a "very high risk" to the health of its residents.
The air quality in Toronto and the nearby regions was labeled as being of "high risk".
The air quality in the northeastern region of the United States has been classified as "unhealthy" by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), particularly for individuals with respiratory problems.
Approximately 100 million individuals across North America are believed to be notified of some level of air quality warning.
The skyline of New York City was covered in a hazy orange layer that obscured famous landmarks, such as the Statue of Liberty.
Mayor Eric Adams has issued a warning that the weather conditions are expected to worsen later today, leading to the suspension of all outdoor activities at public schools in the city until further notice.
He advised that people in New York should minimize their outdoor activities as much as they can.
According to people living in the city, the scent of smoke on Tuesday evening resembled that of a bonfire.
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Outdoor activities at schools in the Washington DC area were cancelled on Wednesday morning due to the poor air quality, which was classified as "code red". Meanwhile, IQAir’s air pollution rankings placed Detroit as the fifth most polluted major metropolitan area in the world.
Experts in public health have advised individuals to refrain from outdoor exercise and reduce their contact with smoke as much as feasible. This is due to the fact that the air carries health hazards that can have both immediate and long-term effects.
The air quality in Quebec has become worse and has caused the Atikamekw community of Opitciwan to relocate individuals with respiratory issues such as asthma due to the smoke. Opitciwan is located approximately 350km (217 miles) north of Montreal.
Wildfires have ravaged over 3.3 million hectares of land in Canada, which is 12 times larger than the usual 10-year average for this season.
Numerous individuals have been forced to leave their homes and relocate to safer areas
Wildfires have been raging in several Canadian provinces and territories including Quebec, British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and the Northwest Territories.
The likelihood of wildfires is heightened by climate change, which increases the probability of hot and dry weather conditions.
Since the beginning of the industrial era, the average temperature of the Earth has increased by approximately 1.2 degrees Celsius. Unless governments worldwide take significant measures to reduce emissions, this trend is expected to continue.
What are the health impacts of breathing in wildfire smoke? According to experts, being exposed to wildfire smoke can lead to a range of health problems.
According to Matthew Adams, a professor at the University of Toronto and the head of its Centre of Urban Environments, inhaling wildfire smoke can lead to immediate symptoms such as difficulty breathing, increased heart rate, chest discomfort, or irritation in the eyes, nose, and throat.
According to Prof Adams who was interviewed by the BBC, there is a higher likelihood of more people visiting hospitals during days when air pollution is high. This is due to the fact that those who visit hospitals during these days already have respiratory illnesses.
According to Professor Adams, exposure to wildfire smoke can lead to severe health problems such as lung disease or cancer. This is especially true for individuals residing in regions that are prone to frequent forest fires.
According to him, the smoke haze contains tiny particles that can enter the human body and cause various health problems, including DNA mutations, by affecting the bloodstream and other organs.
According to Professor Adams, research indicates that pregnant women and their unborn babies can be negatively impacted by being exposed to smoke from wildfires for an extended period of time.
Prof Adams recommended that individuals residing in cities that are distant from the fires but are currently under air advisories should minimize outdoor exercise to prevent inhaling the smoke generated by the wildfires.
He advised not to worry and instead suggested staying indoors to lessen the amount of contact with it.
According to Prof Adams, it is advisable to wear an N95 mask when in close proximity to the fires to prevent inhaling a significant amount of smoke particles.
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