Due to the widespread wildfires burning in Canada, tens of millions of individuals in North America are now facing hazardous air quality levels. This has prompted air quality warnings to be issued as a precautionary measure.
Ontario and Quebec were covered in smoke, while the northeastern US was covered in an orange haze from Tuesday into Wednesday.
During the night, Toronto and New York were listed among the cities with the poorest air quality globally for a short period.
A large amount of smoke is originating from Quebec due to the presence of 160 active fires in the area.
Officials from Canada have stated that the nation is on track to experience the most severe wildfire season in its history.
Specialists have attributed a rise in temperature and reduced rainfall during spring to be the cause of this pattern. It is expected that these circumstances will persist during the summer season.
On Tuesday, Environment Canada issued a warning about the air quality in Ottawa, stating that it poses a significant health risk to individuals and labeling it as a "very high risk."
The air quality in and around Toronto was deemed to be at a high risk level.
At the same time, the EPA in the United States has labeled the air quality in a large portion of the north-east region as "unhealthy," with particular concern for individuals who already suffer from respiratory problems.
It is believed that approximately 100 million individuals located throughout North America are currently being alerted about some kind of air quality issue.
The skyline of New York was covered in a hazy orange layer that obscured famous landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty.
Mayor Eric Adams has announced the suspension of outdoor activities in public schools within the city, until further notice. He has also cautioned that the conditions are supposed to worsen later in the day on Wednesday.
He advised New Yorkers to reduce their outdoor activities as much as they can.
On Wednesday morning, city inhabitants reported that the scent of smoke resembled that of a bonfire.
On Wednesday morning, the air quality in the Washington DC region was classified as "code red," indicating severe pollution levels. Similarly, Detroit was ranked as the fifth most polluted location worldwide on IQAir’s air pollution rating system.
Health experts are advising individuals to avoid outdoor physical activity and reduce their contact with smoke to the minimum possible level, as the air can have immediate and long-lasting negative effects on one’s health.
The air quality in Quebec has become worse, causing the Atikamekw community of Opitciwan, which is located 350km north of Montreal, to relocate individuals with asthma and other respiratory problems away from the smoke.
Canada has been experiencing a large number of fires that have resulted in the burning of over 3.3 million hectares of land. This area is twelve times larger than the average for this time of the year, according to statistics.
A huge number of individuals have been forced to leave their homes and relocate in
In addition to Quebec, there are large fires currently blazing in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and the Northwest Territories.
The likelihood of wildfires is heightened by hot and dry weather, which is becoming more frequent due to climate change.
Since the start of the industrial era, the temperature of the Earth has already increased by approximately 1.2C. However, this trend will continue unless various governments across the globe take significant steps to reduce emissions.
What are the health effects of breathing in smoke from wildfires? Specialists warn that inhaling 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 the Centre of Urban Environments, breathing in smoke from wildfires can have immediate effects on a person’s health. These effects may include difficulty breathing, a faster heart rate, discomfort in the chest, as well as inflammation in the eyes, nose, and throat.
Professor Adams informed the BBC that during days with high levels of air pollution, there is a rise in hospital visits. The individuals who usually seek medical attention during these times already have a respiratory illness.
According to Prof Adams, frequent exposure to wildfire smoke can lead to severe health problems like cancer or lung disease, particularly for individuals residing in regions that witness recurrent forest fires.
According to him, the presence of tiny particles in the smoke haze can lead to health problems by entering the bloodstream and other parts of the body. This may result in DNA mutations and various other health issues.
According to Professor Adams, research indicates that being exposed to wildfire smoke for an extended period can have an impact on pregnant women and their babies.
Prof Adams recommended individuals residing in cities distant from the wildfires but still under air advisories to restrict outdoor physical activities to prevent inhaling smoke from the wildfires.
He advised not to worry too much about it and suggested staying indoors to minimize the risk of exposure.
Professor Adams suggested wearing an N95 mask while being near the fire-affected areas to prevent inhaling smoke particles.
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