As Canada is facing intense wildfires, the air quality levels have become hazardous, causing tens of millions of people to receive air quality warnings in North America.
Large portions of Ontario and Quebec were covered in smoke, while a hazy orange color dominated the skies over the north-eastern United States on Tuesday and Wednesday.
During the night, Toronto and New York were briefly listed as cities with some of the poorest air quality globally.
A significant amount of smoke is originating from Quebec due to the presence of around 160 fires in the area.
Officials from Canada have stated that the nation is heading towards its most severe wildfire season ever.
Specialists have attributed the pattern to a spring that has been warmer and drier than usual. It is anticipated that these conditions will persist during the summer season.
On Tuesday, Environment Canada gave Ottawa a severe air quality warning, stating that it poses a significant health risk to individuals.
The air quality in Toronto and its nearby regions was deemed to be at a high risk level.
At the same time, the air quality in a large part of the north-east region of the United States has been classified as "unhealthy" by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with a particular warning for individuals who already suffer from respiratory problems.
It is estimated that approximately 100 million individuals across North America are currently under some sort of air quality advisory.
The skyline of New York was covered with a layer of orange haze that obscured famous landmarks, such as the Statue of Liberty.
The Mayor of the city, Eric Adams, has announced that all outdoor activities in public schools have been suspended for an indefinite period due to predicted deteriorating conditions on Wednesday.
He suggested that people in New York should try to minimize their time spent outdoors as much as they can.
The people living in the city commented that the scent of smoke on Wednesday morning resembled that of a bonfire.
The air quality levels in the Washington DC region were classified as "code red" on Wednesday morning. At the same time, Detroit was ranked as the fifth most polluted location in the world according to IQAir’s air pollution rankings.
Officials in charge of public health have advised individuals to avoid outdoor exercise and reduce their contact with smoke to the minimum amount possible, as the air carries both immediate and long-term risks for health.
The declining condition of the air has resulted in the relocation of individuals with respiratory problems, such as asthma, in the Atikamekw community of Opitciwan, which is located 350km (217 miles) north of Montreal in Quebec. This decision was made due to the poor air quality caused by the smoke.
Wildfires in Canada have already scorched an enormous 3.3 million hectares of land, which is 12 times larger than the typical 10-year average for this time of the year.
Numerous individuals have been forced to leave their homes and relocate to safer areas
In addition to Quebec, large-scale fires are currently raging in other Canadian provinces and territories including British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia and the Northwest Territories.
The likelihood of wildfires is raised by hot and dry weather, which is more probable due to climate change.
Since the start of the industrial era, the temperature of the planet has increased by approximately 1.2 degrees Celsius. If governments do not take significant steps to reduce emissions, the temperature will continue to rise.
The impact of wildfire smoke on your health is a matter of concern. Professionals suggest that 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 director of its Centre of Urban Environments, breathing in wildfire smoke can lead to various immediate health effects such as difficulty breathing, increased heart rate, chest discomfort, and irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat.
Professor Adams informed the BBC that during days with high levels of air pollution, there will be a rise in the amount of people seeking medical attention at hospitals. The individuals seeking medical help usually already have a respiratory illness.
According to Professor Adams, frequent exposure to wildfire smoke can lead to severe and lasting health problems such as cancer or lung disease, especially for individuals residing in regions that frequently encounter forest fires.
According to him, the smoke haze has tiny particles that can get into the blood and other body parts of humans, leading to potential DNA changes and health problems.
Professor Adams mentioned that research indicates that prolonged exposure to smoke from wildfires can have an impact on pregnant women and their developing fetuses.
Prof Adams has recommended people who live in cities that are far from the fires but are under current air advisories to reduce their outdoor activities to avoid inhaling wildfire smoke.
He advised, "Do not worry too much about it. It would be better to stay indoors and limit your contact with it."
Prof Adams suggested that people living in regions near the wildfire should wear an N95 mask while going outside to prevent inhaling the majority of the smoke particles.
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