As wildfires rage in Canada, tens of millions of people in North America are facing hazardous air quality conditions. They have been warned to be cautious due to the intensity of the fires.
A thick layer of smoke covered vast regions of Ontario and Quebec, while a orange-colored haze lingered over a significant portion of the north-eastern United States starting on Tuesday and extending into Wednesday.
During the night, both Toronto and New York were momentarily listed as cities with some of the poorest air conditions globally.
A significant portion of the smoke is originating from Quebec, where there are currently 160 fires ablaze.
Officials in Canada have announced that the nation is preparing for its most severe wildfire season ever recorded.
The trend has been attributed to a spring season that was warmer and drier than usual. It is expected that these conditions will persist throughout the summer, according to experts.
On Tuesday, the Canadian environmental agency, Environment Canada, issued a warning for the air quality in Ottawa, indicating that it poses a severe threat to the health of the residents. This warning is the most severe one
The air quality in Toronto and the surrounding regions was labeled as a "high risk" level.
In the meantime, the EPA in the US has labeled the air quality in several regions in the north-east of the country as "unhealthy," particularly for individuals who already suffer from respiratory problems.
It is estimated that approximately 100 million individuals across North America are currently under an air quality advisory.
The city’s skyline and famous landmarks, such as the Statue of Liberty, were covered by a thick orange haze in New York.
Mayor Eric Adams has given a warning that the condition is expected to worsen on Wednesday, which has resulted in the indefinite suspension of all outdoor activities at public schools in the city.
He suggested that people in New York should try to avoid outdoor activities as much as they can.
City inhabitants mentioned that on Wednesday morning, the scent of smoke was reminiscent of a bonfire.
The air quality in the Washington DC region was deemed hazardous on Wednesday morning and Detroit was ranked as the fifth most polluted location globally on IQAir’s air pollution index.
Health experts have advised individuals to avoid outdoor physical activities and to limit their contact with the smoke due to the hazardous effects it can have on their health, both in the short and long term.
The worsening air conditions have resulted in the Atikamekw community of Opitciwan in Quebec, which is located 350km (217 miles) north of Montreal, to relocate individuals who have asthma and respiratory problems due to the smoke.
Wildfires in Canada have ravaged more than 3.3 million hectares of land, which is 12 times the usual average for this time of the year.
Numerous individuals in different regions have been relocated from their homes.
Large fires are currently raging in various regions of Canada, including British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia, the Northwest Territories, and Quebec.
The probability of wildfires is higher due to climate change, as it leads to more hot and dry weather conditions.
Since the industrial era began, the Earth’s temperature has increased by approximately 1.2C. Unless governments worldwide take significant steps to reduce emissions, temperatures will continue to rise.
What is the impact of inhaling wildfire smoke on your health? According to specialists, it can lead to a range of health problems.
Matthew Adams, who is a professor at the University of Toronto and oversees the Centre of Urban Environments, has stated that inhaling smoke from wildfires can have instant effects such as difficulty breathing, increased heart rate, chest discomfort, and irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat.
According to Professor Adams, when air pollution levels are high, there is a noticeable rise in hospital admissions. Typically, those who end up in the hospital already have a respiratory illness.
According to Professor Adams, the smoke produced by wildfires can cause significant and lasting health problems such as cancer or lung disease. This is especially true for individuals residing in regions that frequently experience forest fires.
According to him, the smoke haze contains tiny particles that can get into our bloodstream and various organs, leading to potential DNA mutations and other health problems.
Prof Adams has stated that pregnant women and their unborn children can be negatively impacted by extended exposure to smoke from wildfires, as certain studies have demonstrated.
Prof Adams recommended individuals residing in cities distant from the wildfires but within current air advisories to restrict outdoor physical activity to prevent inhaling the smoke caused by the blaze.
He advised not to worry too much about it and suggested staying indoors to minimize contact.
Prof Adams suggests that individuals living in areas near wildfires should wear an N95 mask while outdoors to prevent inhaling a majority of the smoke particles.
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