By Jared Stamm
For Capital Region Independent Media
Wildfires that began at the start of June in the central Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec continue to negatively impact air quality in our region.
The Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre said about 415 fires were burning as of Tuesday, with more than 100 in Quebec alone.
Canada’s Federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair noted that images of wildfires burning across Canada are some of the most severe ever witnessed in the country. The forecast for the next few months indicates the potential for continued higher-than-normal fire activity.
Are your eyes watering? Feel like you’re seeing everything through a haze? That’s no surprise, as a storm system with strong winds around a low-pressure system near the New England coast is forcing smoke from the fires south into the United States, with smoky conditions extending as far south as the Carolinas.
Sunsets may be more spectacular than normal, but the air quality throughout our region is not so good these days.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency measures air quality with the Air Quality Index (AQI) for five major air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act: ground-level ozone, particle pollution (also known as particulate matter), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide.
The index runs from 0 to 500. The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concern. An AQI value of 50 or below indicates good air quality, while an AQI value more than 300 is hazardous.
In the Upper Hudson Valley, the smoke plume from Canada is causing elevated levels of fine particles, which has sent the Air Quality Index (AQI) to about 195 today, considered unhealthy for sensitive groups.
You can monitor AQI through AirNow at airnow.gov. AirNow is a partnership of the EPA, NOAA, the National Park Service, NASA, the CDC, and tribal, state and local air quality agencies.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Officials are urging New Yorkers to safeguard their health.
“I encourage New Yorkers, especially those sensitive to air quality, to take appropriate steps to help limit risk of exposure,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said Tuesday.
The American Lung Association recommends staying indoors; protecting the air in your home by keeping doors, windows and fireplace dampers shut and set air conditioners to recirculate air; keeping an eye on symptoms and contacting your healthcare provider if you experience difficulty breathing; and taking extra precautions for children, whose lungs are still developing and are more susceptible to smoke.
WHEN WILL IT GET BETTER?
The EPA said hazy skies, reduced visibility, the odor of burning wood and the smoke will linger for a few more days in northern states.
According to The Weather Channel, this weekend a pattern change will help change the upper-level wind direction. That should help clear out any of the remaining smoke from the region and keep any new smoke from driving straight southward out of Canada into the East.