Canadian wildfires are making the air unhealthy again in North America

A man runs along the shore of Lake Michigan as thick haze from Canadian wildfires blankets Chicago. (KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI)

Smoke from wildfires raging in Canada again affected air quality in the province of Ontario and several US states on Wednesday, as observers warned that millions of people faced severely unhealthy or emergency conditions.

Watches have been issued from Ontario, northern Minnesota and Michigan to New York and the southeastern states of North Carolina and Georgia, with the latest hazardous weather conditions over most of North America’s Great Lakes and mid-Atlantic regions.

The air quality warnings come as a severe heat wave hits most of the American South and Midwest, affecting millions of people. The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a forecast of temperatures of up to 46°C on Wednesday for north and central Texas.

Chicago, the nation’s third-most populous city, whose metropolitan area is home to more than 9 million people, had a “very unhealthy” air quality index of 215 as of early Wednesday, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). American in your AirNow app.

The authorities advised residents to limit the time they spend outdoors, especially children and pregnant women.

Coincidentally, President Joe Biden arrived in Chicago on Wednesday to discuss the economy. The president’s presidential plane descended “through a thick layer of smoke and haze,” according to a White House report before his speech.

Meanwhile, the Detroit area, with a population of 4.3 million, had the worst air quality in the country, with an AQI score of 306, or “dangerous.”

According to the EPA, an AQI of 301 or higher reflects “emergency conditions” likely to affect everyone.

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Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management tweeted: “Chicago air quality still very unhealthy today. Limit time outdoors.”

Detroit and Chicago had the worst air quality in the world on Tuesday, according to the Swiss-based monitoring company, IQAir, and are expected to remain in the top three worst on Wednesday, just behind Dubai and above Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The smoke is expected to drift east and reach the Washington area during the day or night, according to Ryan Stauffer, an air pollution scientist at NASA.

“One of these events in a year would be really cool, but the second in a month,” he wrote on Twitter.

“Unhealthy smoke levels are expected to permeate a wide area of ​​the Midwest today,” the NWS said.

“Wildfire smoke from Canada will reduce air quality over parts of the upper/middle Mississippi Valley, the Great Lakes, western Ohio Valley, central Appalachia, and the mid-Atlantic, prompting submissions of air quality guidance for the region,” he added.

In New York City, where toxic smog three weeks ago disrupted flights and forced the cancellation of outdoor events, officials warned Wednesday that “air quality is expected to deteriorate this week due to Canadian wildfires.”

The New York City Transit Authority said it will give out free KN95 masks at subway and train stations.

Smoke from the wildfires has also moved across the Atlantic Ocean and over European countries, including Portugal and Spain.

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Amber Cross

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