As wildfires continue to blaze across Canada, tens of millions of individuals in North America are facing hazardous air quality conditions. This situation has caused great concern for many people.
Smoke covered wide regions of Ontario and Quebec, and a yellowish haze lingered over most of the northeastern United States from Tuesday to Wednesday.
During the night, both Toronto and New York were briefly listed as metropolitan areas with poor air quality compared to other locations around the globe.
A significant amount of smoke is originating from Quebec, as there are currently 160 active fires in the area.
According to authorities in Canada, the nation is preparing for its most severe wildfire season in history.
Professionals have indicated that the trend is due to a spring season that is warmer and drier than the usual weather. The forecast suggests that these circumstances will persist for the entire summer.
On Tuesday, Environment Canada issued an alert that the air quality in Ottawa poses a significant danger to people’s health, marking it as a "very high risk" situation.
The air quality in Toronto and the regions nearby has been labeled as "high risk".
At the same time, the EPA in the United States has labeled the air quality in a significant portion of the north-eastern region as "unhealthy," particularly for individuals with existing respiratory problems.
It is estimated that approximately 100 million individuals across North America are currently being notified about air quality concerns.
The skyline of New York was covered with an orange haze which led to the Statue of Liberty and other landmarks being obscured.
Mayor Eric Adams has announced that all outdoor activities in the public schools of the city have been put on hold indefinitely. He has cautioned that the situation is likely to worsen later in the day.
According to him, it is advisable for all residents of New York to minimize their outdoor activities as much as possible.
According to residents of the city, the scent of smoke on Tuesday evening resembled that of a bonfire.
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On Wednesday morning, schools in Washington DC decided to cancel activities that were to be held outside due to the poor air quality levels that was classified as "code red". Furthermore, IQAir’s air pollution rankings rated Detroit as the fifth most polluted major metropolitan area in the world.
Health experts are advising individuals to refrain from exercising outdoors and reduce their contact with smoke as much as they can due to the immediate and prolonged health hazards associated with the air.
The decline in air quality has resulted in the relocation of individuals with asthma and other respiratory problems in the Atikamekw community of Opitciwan, which is located 350km (217 miles) north of Montreal, due to smoke.
Wildfires have ravaged over 3.3 million hectares of land in Canada, which is 12 times more than the average for this period in the last decade.
Large numbers of individuals have been forced to leave their homes or other locations due
Large fires are currently raging in several regions of Canada, including British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia, the Northwest Territories, and Quebec.
The likelihood of wildfires is higher due to the increased risk of hot and dry weather caused by climate change.
Since the start of the industrial era, the earth’s temperature has increased by approximately 1.2C. If governments worldwide do not significantly reduce emissions, temperatures will continue to rise.
The impact of wildfire smoke on health is a concern. According to experts, being exposed to wildfire smoke can result in various health problems.
According to Matthew Adams, who is a director of the Centre of Urban Environments and a professor at the University of Toronto, inhaling wildfire smoke can cause immediate health effects. These effects may include difficulty in breathing, an increased heart rate, discomfort in the chest, and inflammation in the eyes, nose, and throat.
According to Professor Adams in an interview with the BBC, when air pollution levels are high, there tends to be a rise in hospital visits. The individuals who are seeking medical attention usually have a pre-existing respiratory condition.
According to Professor Adams, frequent forest fires in certain areas can cause serious health problems such as cancer and lung disease due to the smoke from wildfires. These health issues can have long-term effects on individuals.
According to him, the presence of tiny particles in the smoke haze can result in various health issues such as DNA mutations as they can infiltrate the bloodstream and other body parts.
According to Professor Adams, research has indicated that prolonged exposure to smoke from wildfires can have an impact on women who are pregnant as well as their unborn babies.
Prof Adams recommended that individuals residing in cities distant from the wildfires yet under existing air advisories should restrict their outdoor activities to prevent inhaling the smoke produced by the fires.
He advised not to worry too much and recommended staying indoors to decrease exposure.
Prof Adams suggested that individuals residing in close proximity to the fires should put on an N95 mask when outside to prevent the inhalation of a majority of the smoke particles.
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