Air quality warnings have been issued for tens of millions of individuals in North America due to the ongoing wildfires in Canada. The fires have resulted in hazardous air quality levels that pose significant health risks.
Ontario and Quebec were covered in smoke, and an orange haze could be seen in most parts of the northeastern US from Tuesday until Wednesday.
During the night, Toronto and New York were briefly listed as cities with some of the poorest air quality globally.
A large proportion of the smoke is being produced in Quebec due to the presence of 160 ongoing fires.
Officials in Canada have stated that the country is currently experiencing its most severe wildfire season to date.
According to specialists, the trend can be attributed to a spring season that is warmer and drier than usual. This pattern is expected to persist during the summer months.
On Tuesday, Environment Canada issued a severe air quality warning for Ottawa, stating that it poses a "very high risk" to the health of individuals.
The air quality in Toronto and the nearby regions was categorized as risky.
At the same time, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has labeled the air quality in many areas of the north-east as "unhealthy," particularly for those with pre-existing respiratory problems.
It is believed that approximately 100 million individuals across North America are currently under some type of alert regarding air quality.
The skyline of New York was covered by a layer of orange haze, which obscured well-known landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty.
Mayor Eric Adams has announced that all outdoor activities in public schools within the city have been put on hold indefinitely due to the anticipated worsening of conditions later on Wednesday.
He advised New Yorkers to minimize their outdoor activities as much as possible.
According to residents of the city, the scent of smoke on Wednesday morning was comparable to that of a bonfire.
The air quality in Washington DC was deemed "code red" on Wednesday morning, indicating poor conditions. Detroit also ranked as the fifth most polluted city in the world according to IQAir’s air pollution rankings.
Health experts have advised individuals to avoid outdoor physical activity and reduce their time spent in areas with smoke, since it can cause both short-term and long-term health issues. These precautions are essential to maintain good health.
The poor air quality has caused the relocation of individuals with asthma and other breathing problems from the smoke in the Atikamekw community of Opitciwan, located 350km (217 miles) north of Montreal, Quebec.
Wildfires in Canada have already consumed over 3.3 million hectares of land, which is 12 times more than the average for this time of the year over the past decade.
Numerous individuals have been forced to leave their homes and move to safer areas
In addition to Quebec, large fires are currently spreading across British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and the Northwest Territories.
The possibility of wildfires is higher due to the impact of climate change, which results in hot and dry weather.
Since the start of the industrial era, the Earth’s temperature has increased by approximately 1.2C. Unless global governments take significant measures to reduce emissions, temperatures will continue to rise.
What is the impact of wildfire smoke on your wellbeing? According to specialists, inhaling wildfire smoke can lead to a range of health problems.
According to Matthew Adams, who is a professor at the University of Toronto and also the head of the Centre of Urban Environments, the initial outcomes of breathing in smoke caused by wildfires can include difficulty in breathing, a faster heartbeat, discomfort in the chest, or swelling in the eyes, nose, and throat.
According to Prof Adams, during days with high levels of air pollution, there is a rise in the number of individuals seeking medical attention at hospitals. These individuals usually have a pre-existing respiratory illness.
According to Professor Adams, the smoke from wildfires can cause severe and lasting health problems such as cancer or lung disease. This is especially true for individuals residing in regions that frequently experience forest fires.
The presence of tiny particles in smoke haze can lead to health complications by penetrating the bloodstream and other parts of the body, potentially causing mutations in DNA and other adverse effects. This was explained by the speaker.
According to Professor Adams, extended exposure to smoke from wildfires can have an impact on pregnant women and their developing babies, as some research has indicated.
Prof Adams recommends that those who live in cities that are far from the fires but are currently under air advisories should reduce their outdoor exercise to prevent inhalation of the wildfire smoke.
He advised not to worry too much and stay indoors to minimize contact with it.
In regions nearer to the wildfires, Prof Adams suggested putting on an N95 mask while outdoors to prevent breathing in the majority of smoke particles.
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