Large numbers of individuals in North America are being cautioned about the quality of air due to raging wildfires in Canada. This has resulted in hazardous conditions for tens of millions of people.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, a thick layer of smoke covered vast regions of Ontario and Quebec, and an orange tint could be seen in the sky over many parts of the northeastern United States.
During the night, Toronto and New York were momentarily listed as some of the metropolitan regions with the poorest air conditions globally.
A significant amount of smoke is originating from Quebec due to the presence of 160 active fires.
Officials in Canada have reported that the country is preparing for its most severe wildfire season ever documented.
Specialists have identified a higher temperature and lower moisture spring compared to the usual as the cause for the pattern. These circumstances are expected to persist during the summer.
On Tuesday, Environment Canada declared that the air quality in Ottawa poses a significant danger to the health of individuals, and issued a severe warning to that effect.
According to reports, the air quality in Toronto and the nearby regions has been deemed as "high risk".
At the same time, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States has declared that the air quality in a significant portion of the north-eastern region is "unhealthy" particularly for individuals who suffer from respiratory problems.
It is estimated that approximately 100 million individuals across North America are currently subjected to some type of air quality advisory.
The skyline of New York was covered by an orange haze which enveloped significant landmarks, such as the Statue of Liberty.
Mayor Eric Adams has announced that all outdoor activities in public schools of the city have been halted without any specific time frame, and he has cautioned that the conditions are predicted to worsen later during the day.
He advised all individuals in New York to minimize their outdoor activities as much as possible.
According to inhabitants of the city, the odor of smoke on Tuesday evening resembled that of a bonfire.
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Schools in the Washington DC region called off all outdoor activities on Wednesday due to "code red" air quality levels. In addition, Detroit was ranked fifth among the most polluted metropolitan cities in the world, according to IQAir’s air pollution rankings.
Health authorities have advised individuals to avoid outdoor physical activities and reduce their contact with smoke to the bare minimum due to the dangerous health hazards presented by the air. These risks can have both short-term and long-term effects.
The worsening air quality has led to the relocation of individuals with respiratory problems, including asthma, in the Atikamekw community of Opitciwan in Quebec. The community is located 350km (217 miles) north of Montreal and has been affected by smoke, which has resulted in health concerns for its residents.
The wildfires in Canada have already destroyed over 3.3 million hectares of land, which is 12 times more than the average for this time of year over the past decade.
Numerous individuals have been relocated from various parts of the nation.
In addition to Quebec, there have been significant wildfires in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and the Northwest Territories.
The danger of wildfires is heightened by climate change as it can cause hotter and drier weather conditions.
Since the beginning of the industrial era, the Earth’s temperature has increased by approximately 1.2C. If countries do not take significant measures to reduce their emissions, global temperatures will continue to rise.
What is the impact of wildfire smoke on your health? According to experts, being exposed to 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 its Centre of Urban Environments, breathing in wildfire smoke can cause a range of immediate health issues. These can include difficulty breathing, a faster than normal heart rate, discomfort or pain in the chest, and irritation in the eyes, nose, and throat.
According to Prof Adams, when the air pollution levels rise, there is a higher likelihood of people going to the hospital. These individuals usually have a respiratory disease that existed before their visit.
According to Professor Adams, frequent exposure to wildfire smoke can cause severe and prolonged health problems such as cancer or lung disease, especially for individuals residing in regions that encounter frequent forest fires.
According to him, the smoke haze contains tiny particles that can penetrate the bloodstream and various organs of the body. This can lead to potential DNA mutations and other health problems.
According to Professor Adams, studies have indicated that pregnant women and their fetuses can be negatively impacted by extended exposure to smoke from wildfires.
Prof Adams recommended that individuals residing in cities that are not near the fire but are currently under air advisories should restrict outdoor exercises to prevent inhaling smoke from the wildfire.
He advised not to worry too much and suggested staying indoors to minimize the amount of exposure.
In regions that are nearer to the wildfires, Prof Adams suggested putting on an N95 mask while being outside, as it helps in preventing the inhalation of a majority of the smoke particles.
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