Intense wildfires are plaguing Canada, spreading from its western provinces to Quebec, resulting in hundreds of forest fires burning. The smoke has infiltrated the United States, leading to air quality alerts since May. On Tuesday, New England was issued a poor air quality alert by the US Environmental Protection Agency, followed by similar advisories in parts of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota the next day. Wildfires have further afflicted U.S. officials down south in Baltimore, Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
Smoke from Canada’s wildfires has migrated into the United States since last month. However, the most recent fires near Quebec have been burning for at least several days. According to Darren Austin, a meteorologist and senior air quality specialist, an aloft smoke from northwest Canada is typical to Rhode Island and doesn’t usually affect people’s health. Nevertheless, the Quebec-area fires are sizeable and relatively near to Rhode Island, about 500 to 600 miles away. The air quality alert occurred on May 30, resulting from wildfires in Nova Scotia.
Air quality alerts get triggered by various factors, including the discovery of fine-particle pollution, better known as “PM 2.5,” which irritates the lungs. Dr. David Hill, a pulmonologist, and a member of the American Lung Association’s National Board of Directors, confirms that these particles down in the respiratory space cause an inflammatory reaction to the body. Trent Ford, the state climatologist in Illinois, claims that atmospheric conditions in the upper Midwest have produced dry, warm weather making it possible for small particulates to travel hundreds of miles from Canadian wildfires and linger for days.
People with lung disorders like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, older adults, and children are sensitive to elevated fine-particle pollution levels affecting lungs and hearts. Kids, whose lungs are still in development and breathe more air per unit of body weight, are especially susceptible to smoke for multiple reasons.
If stepping outside, consider wearing an N95 mask to diminish exposure to pollutants. It is an excellent way to stay inside, shutting windows, doors, and fireplaces. Running the air conditioning on a recirculation setting is also necessary. It is suggested to keep quality filters on home HVAC systems and invest in air purifiers for those with underlying lung or heart diseases.
Katie Foody, an Associated Press reporter in Chicago, contributed to this story.