Smoke Pollution From Canadian Wildfires Returns to Parts of U.S.


Air polluted by the Canadian wildfires is back in the United States this week, and state officials urged residents on Monday to take precautions by limiting outdoor activities and wearing masks.

There are nearly 900 wildfires burning across Canada, but the smoke this week will be coming from the western part of the country.

“Unfortunately, the wildfire smoke will begin to make a return to the region to start the new week,” according to the National Weather Service in the Philadelphia area.

Air quality alerts were issued for multiple areas, including the Midwest, the Great Lakes, central Tennessee and North Carolina, as well as the Northeast.

By 10 a.m. Eastern time on Monday, cities across the Midwest were reporting some of the worst air quality in the country, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index. The index runs from 0 to 500; the higher the number, the greater the level of air pollution. An A.Q.I. of 201 or more is considered very unhealthy. Billings, Mont., and Fort Wayne, Ind., had an A.Q.I. of 161, while the Cleveland area was at 157.

The forecast is expected to cause “unhealthy for all” conditions in the areas closest to the Canadian border, according to AirNow, a website run by the E.P.A., which oversees air quality across the United States.

Ohio’s Environmental Protection Agency said its advisory was in effect through Monday. In the southwestern region of the state, residents were told to limit use of their vehicles, to refrain from mowing lawns and to avoid burning firewood and yard waste.

Governor Kathy Hochul of New York on Sunday issued air quality health advisories for Monday. The air quality in parts of upstate New York was expected to reach unhealthy levels for all residents, while conditions in the Lower Hudson Valley, New York City, and Long Island were expected to be unhealthy only for sensitive groups. The A.Q.I. in Rochester was already at 141 early Monday, while Buffalo’s was at 116.

“New Yorkers should once again prepare for smoke from the wildfires in Western Canada to impact our state’s air quality this week,” Ms. Hochul said in a statement, adding that officials were activating emergency notifications on roads and public transit systems and making sure masks were available for distribution in counties across the state.

Local officials also advised residents to limit outdoor activity, use public transportation or wear masks. The message was repeated from Buffalo — where Mayor Byron W. Brown told residents to take precautions — to Chicago, where an air quality alert was in effect through Sunday night.

“We are acutely aware that the recent weather events prominently impacting our City this summer are the direct result of the climate crisis,” Chicago’s mayor, Brandon Johnson, said on Sunday, warning children, older residents and those with heart or lung disease to limit outdoor activity.

In Pennsylvania, where the environmental protection department issued a statewide “code orange” alert, officials suggested residents and businesses help by limiting burning of leaves, trash, and other materials, and avoiding the use of gas-powered lawn and garden equipment.

“Canadian wildfire smoke will remain in the picture through Tuesday as northwesterly winds aloft that originate out of the Canadian Prairies continues to direct more smoke into the Lower 48,” the Weather Service said.

Early last month, the level of particulate matter in the air from smoke became so unhealthy that many U.S. cities set records. At points, it was hazardous to breathe everywhere from Minnesota and Indiana to sections of the Mid-Atlantic and the South.

Visibility decreased to startling degrees in cities, including New York, Toronto and Cincinnati. In some places, smoke from the fires blanketed the sky in an orange haze. That smoke could be traced to wildfires burning in Quebec.

Here’s a guide to understanding air quality readings.

Lola Fadulu contributed reporting.


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