Millions of people in North America are currently facing health risks due to poor air quality caused by toxic wildfire smoke drifting from Canada. To ensure your safety, here are some essential measures you can take:
1. Checking Air Quality Stay informed about local air quality conditions by referring to weather forecasts that include air quality updates. The US government provides a website where you can check air quality in your area. Canadians can use their local air quality resource or refer to IQAir’s updated rankings for air quality in major metro areas worldwide.
2. Staying Indoors Pay attention to air quality reports and follow expert advice. When advised, limit your exposure to outdoor air. Stay indoors and keep windows and doors closed to minimize the entry of smoke particles. In areas under current air advisories but located far from the fires, reduce outdoor exercise to avoid inhaling the smoke.
3. Wearing Masks For areas closer to the fires, wearing an N95 mask is recommended to prevent the inhalation of smoke particles. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also suggests using N95 masks and warns against relying on simple dust masks, as they don’t effectively protect against fine particles released during wildfires. Ensure the mask fits tightly for optimal filtration. However, masks are not suitable for children and may pose breathing difficulties for individuals with certain lung conditions.
4. Using Air Purifiers Consider using portable air purifiers or cleaners in your home or workplace. These devices help remove airborne particles, including aerosols, and can improve indoor air quality. Refer to CDC guidelines for more information.
5. Understanding Smoke Exposure Symptoms Exposure to wildfire smoke can cause various symptoms, including coughing, headaches, scratchy throat, runny nose, stinging eyes, irritated sinuses, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest pain. Inhalation of smoke can also strain the heart, increase pulse rate, and impact cardiovascular health. Vulnerable individuals such as older adults, pregnant women, young children, and those with underlying health conditions are more susceptible to adverse effects.
6. Global Air Quality Many major cities worldwide, particularly in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, experience dangerous air quality levels similar to the current situation in North America. South Asia, in particular, suffers from severe air pollution, resulting in an estimated two million premature deaths annually. Recent IQAir rankings highlight the significant drop in air quality across North America, with multiple US states and the District of Columbia issuing air quality alerts. Detroit and Washington DC were among the major cities with unhealthy air quality scores.
By following these precautions and staying updated on air quality conditions, you can minimize the health risks associated with wildfire smoke exposure.
Table: IQAir’s Rankings for Major Cities
|Air Quality Index (AQI)
Note: The table provides an example of IQAir’s rankings for major cities, showcasing the air quality index (AQI) score of Detroit as the highest-ranked city with an “unhealthy” rating. Please refer to IQAir’s official website for the most up-to-date rankings.
Please note that this table is a representation for demonstration purposes and may not reflect real-time data.