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Image from an airplane flying over New York today. Alamy Stock Photo

Smog from Canada wildfires blankets New York as air quality alerts triggered for 100 million

At one point yesterday evening, New York had the worst air quality of any major city in the world.

LAST UPDATE | 7 Jun 2023

MORE THAN 100 million people in America are living under air quality alerts caused by Canadian wildfires, the US Environmental Protection Agency said today

These range from “Code Orange”  – unhealthy for sensitive groups – and above, the EPA said in a statement sent to AFP.

The region “includes much of the Northeast US – extending to Chicago to the west and Atlanta to the south,” said the agency, with the Canadian wildfires presumed to be the main cause, though localized emissions and meteorology could also play a factor.

Many parts of the Northeast and Midatlantic meanwhile are under “Code Red,” an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 151 or above, considered unhealthy for all people.

Winds have carried smoke hundreds of miles from Canada’s Quebec province, the epicenter of a devastating wildfire season that has ravaged the country.

The EPA said it encouraged Americans living in affected areas to check their AQI throughout the day and take steps to reduce their exposure.

“Pay attention to any health symptoms if you have asthma, COPD, heart disease, or are pregnant. Get medical help if you need it,” it said.

While most healthy adults and children will recover quickly from smoke exposure and not have lasting effects, people with chronic diseases such as asthma or cardiovascular conditions are at higher risk.

Children, pregnant women and the elderly are also particularly advised to limit outdoor activity.

It comes as an orange-tinged smog caused by Canada’s wildfires shrouded New York today, obscuring its famous skyscrapers and causing residents to don face masks.

Forty-three-year-old lawyer Hugh Hill – wearing a mask while walking his dog in Central Park – said his eyes and throat had been “stinging” from the harmful haze, which he likened to the smell of a wood-burning fire.

“I don’t know if it’s psychological or physical but I know there’s some benefit to wearing a mask. Obviously, it’s not going to prevent everything but the dog has to be walked,” he told AFP.

The thick haze enveloped the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline, which would normally be sparkling under bright, blue early summer skies.

America’s financial capital and much of New York state were subject to an air quality health advisory alert that was in effect until tonight.

Warnings were also in place in the US capital Washington.

All outdoor activities at New York City’s public schools were suspended and Mayor Eric Adams urged city dwellers to limit outdoor time to “the absolute necessities.”

“This is not the day to train for a marathon,” he told reporters., which tracks pollution around the world, said New York City’s air quality index (AQI) was an “unhealthy” 158 this morning.

It said the concentration of tiny particles known as PM2.5 was 14 times World Health Organization guidelines.

Last night, the metropolis recorded a “very unhealthy” AQI recording of 218, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

IQAir said that one point yesterday evening, New York had the worst air quality of any major city in the world.

They city is normally outside the top 3,000 worst cities for pollution, according to the website.

new-york-usa-21st-may-2023-the-combo-photo-shows-wildfire-smoke-from-canada-shrouding-new-york-the-united-states-on-june-7-2023-top-and-the-manhattan-skyline-at-sunset-in-new-york-on-may-21 Combo photo shows wildfire smoke from Canada shrouding New York today and the Manhattan skyline at sunset in New York, on 21 May. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Mathematics professor Evangelia Antonakos, 47, said she was worried about the high particle count.

“Yesterday, walking home from school, you could smell the smoke,” she told AFP, wearing a mask in Central Park as her five-year-old son, also wearing a mask, played on his scooter.

“At home we closed our windows and put our air filters on,” Antonakos added.

DC haze

Residents of the nation’s capital also woke today to an acrid smell and cloudy skies despite sunny weather.

Washington authorities warned that the air quality was “unhealthy for people with heart or lung disease, older adults, children and teens” and canceled all outdoor activities in public schools, including sports lessons.

The pollution is expected to last into tomorrow.

On the floor of the US Senate, Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the smog was “a warning from nature that we have a lot of work to do to reverse the destruction of climate change.”

Scientists say warming temperatures increase the risk of the hot, dry weather that often fans wildfires.

© AFP 2023 

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