Noxious smoke from more than 100 wildfires in Quebec drifted south, and New York City topped the list of the world’s worst air pollution for part of Tuesday.
Smoke from wildfires in Canada routinely engulfs the northeastern and mid-Atlantic oceans for more than a week, raising concerns about damage from persistently poor air quality.
New York City’s air quality index peaked above 200 on Tuesday night, according to IQair, a “very unhealthy” level. IQair said the city had the worst air quality in any metropolitan area as of 10 p.m. ET Tuesday.
Late Tuesday night, Icare reported that air pollution levels in New York City were the second worst in the world after New Delhi, India. Another city on the list was Doha, Qatar. Baghdad, Iraq; and Lahore, Pakistan.
New York City briefly topped the list on Tuesday morning.
As a result, at least 10 school districts in central New York canceled outdoor activities and events on Tuesday. The school district said in a statement that these activities included schoolwork, athletics and extracurricular activities, while outdoor breaks and gym classes were also canceled.
Wildfire smoke contains the smallest pollutant and also the most dangerous, very small particulate matter: PM2.5. When inhaled, it can reach deep into the lung tissue and enter the bloodstream. It comes from sources such as fossil fuel burning, dust storms, and wildfires, and is associated with many health problems, including asthma, heart disease, and other respiratory ailments.
Millions of people die each year from health problems related to air pollution. About 4.2 million premature deaths were linked to fine particulate matter in 2016, according to the World Health Organization.
On Tuesday, PM2.5 levels in New York City’s air were more than 10 times higher than guidelines set by the World Health Organization.
“If you see or smell smoke, recognize that you’ve been exposed to it,” says William Barrett, the American Lung Association’s national senior director of clean air advocacy. “And it’s important to do everything you can to stay indoors during these high levels of pollution, and it’s very important to stay vigilant of your health and the progression of your symptoms. important to.”
Particularly vulnerable to wildfire smoke, Barrett said, is that smoke exposure can exacerbate symptoms or develop new ones, “including children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with respiratory or cardiovascular disease.” people,” he said.
“Really, make sure you take proper steps to check with your healthcare provider about any symptoms that may be of concern during an event like this,” Barrett said.
More than 150 wildfires have broken out in Quebec this week, according to the Forest Fire Center, a government agency of Canada, more than double the number of wildfires in other Canadian provinces.
As of 2023, there are more than 400 wildfires across Quebec, double the average for this time of year. Wildfires have burned nearly 9 million acres in Canada so far this year, with nearly 500,000 acres in Quebec alone.
Air pollution warnings were issued for parts of the Northeast and Midwest on Tuesday as smoke from the wildfires spread west into Detroit and Chicago.
Chicago’s National Weather Service said, “Weather conditions can be expected to cause widespread ozone and particulate levels to be above the unhealthy category for air quality index sensitive individuals.” “Active children and adults, especially those with pulmonary and respiratory conditions such as asthma, should limit prolonged outdoor activity.”
Spencer Pratt/Getty Images
People walk through Brooklyn Park in New York City on Tuesday morning. Due to Canada’s wildfire smoke, air pollution levels were unhealthy for sensitive populations.
Detroit was listed as one of IQair’s top 10 most polluted regions on Tuesday afternoon. Air quality in Chicago was moderate Tuesday afternoon and is expected to remain moderate for the next few days.
Pittsburgh’s air quality, meanwhile, remains at unhealthy levels, with projections suggesting a slight shift to unhealthy levels for sensitive populations, including the elderly, young children and those with respiratory problems, on Tuesday. It is shown to return to moderate levels by Wednesday. The city had an air pollution alert on Tuesday.
New York and parts of New England Air quality continues to deteriorate A warning will be issued on Tuesday that includes much of New York and all of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Vermont. Cities such as Baltimore, Boston, Hartford, Providence and Montpelier, Vermont, are expected to be unhealthy for those sensitive to air quality Tuesday.
The cold front is expected to move southward in the next few days, and smoke is expected to push further south and east throughout the week.
Anthropogenic climate change is exacerbating hot and dry conditions, allowing wildfires to ignite and spread. Scientists recently found that wildfires in the western United States and Canada burned down millions of acres — about the size of South Carolina — that could be traced to carbon pollution from the world’s largest fossil fuel and cement companies. reported that there is
And as they burn, the smoke can travel thousands of miles downstream, endangering millions more people.
“Wildfires are really a global warming issue,” IQAir North America CEO Glory Dolphin Hammes previously told CNN. “It has a lot to do with climate change creating an inherently dangerous situation.”