New York City's Air Pollution Soars As Canada Wildfire Smoke Covers Northeast
New York City's air pollution soars as Canada wildfire smoke covers northeast leading to the highest levels of air pollution worldwide, surpassing even New Delhi, India. The city's air quality index exceeded 200, reaching a "very unhealthy" level according to IQair.
Cecilia JonesJun 08, 20234133 Shares243118 Views
New York City's air pollution soars as Canada wildfire smoke covers northeastleading to the highest levels of air pollution worldwide, surpassing even New Delhi, India. The city's air quality index exceeded 200, reaching a "very unhealthy" level according to IQair.
The cause of this alarming pollution was the smoke drifting from over a hundred wildfires raging in Quebec, Canada. The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions have been periodically affected by the smoke for over a week, raising concerns about the long-term impact on air quality.
By Tuesday night, New York City ranked second in the world for air pollution, with only New Delhi surpassing it. The other cities on the list included Doha, Qatar; Baghdad, Iraq; and Lahore, Pakistan.
This marked the second time on Tuesday that New York City had topped the list, with a brief period in the morning also seeing the city with the worst air quality among major metropolitan areas.
Due to the severe air pollution caused by the wildfire smoke, several school districts in central New York state made the decision to cancel a variety of outdoor activities and events on Tuesday. This included academic, athletic, and extracurricular events, as well as the cancellation of outdoor recess and gym classes, according to announcements made by the school districts.
The smoke from the wildfires contains PM2.5, which refers to very tiny particulate matter and is considered extremely hazardous. These particles can penetrate deep into the lungs and even enter the bloodstream when inhaled.
PM2.5 is generated by various sources, including the combustion of fossil fuels, dust storms, and wildfires. Scientific research has established a connection between exposure to PM2.5 and a range of health problems, such as asthma, heart disease, and respiratory illnesses.
Air pollution-related health issues claim millions of lives annually. According to the World Health Organization, in 2016 alone, approximately 4.2 million premature deaths were attributed to fine particulate matter.
The concentration of PM2.5 in New York City's air on Tuesday was more than 10 times higher than the guideline established by the World Health Organization. This alarming statistic highlights the urgent need for effective measures to mitigate air pollution and protect public health.
William Barrett, the national senior director of clean air advocacy with the American Lung Association made a statement saying:
If you can see or smell smoke, know that you’re being exposed. And it’s important that you do everything you can to remain indoors during those high, high pollution episodes, and it’s really important to keep an eye on your health or any development of symptoms.- William Barrett, the national senior director of clean air advocacy with the American Lung Association
According to Barrett, individuals who are especially susceptible to the harmful effects of wildfire smoke are children, senior citizens, pregnant individuals, and those with respiratory or cardiovascular conditions. Exposure to smoke can exacerbate their existing symptoms or even lead to the development of new health issues. It is crucial to prioritize the protection and well-being of these vulnerable populations during periods of heightened air pollution caused by wildfires.
“Really, make sure you take appropriate steps to check in with health care providers about any concerning symptoms that come up during these events,” Barrett said.
This week, Quebec is currently experiencing over 150 active wildfires, which is more than double the number of fires burning in any other Canadian province. In 2023, more than 400 wildfires have already ignited in Quebec, which is twice the average for this time of year.
The extent of the damage caused by wildfires in Canada this year is substantial, with nearly 9 million acres charred. Quebec alone accounts for almost half a million acres burned.
NYC’s air pollution among world’s worst as smoke from Canadian wildfires set to linger
As the smoke from these wildfires spreads, air quality alerts have been issued in parts of the Northeast and the Midwest, reaching as far west as Detroit and Chicago. The impact of these wildfires on air quality is being felt across a wide geographic area, underscoring the need for measures to address and mitigate the consequences of these fires.
“Weather conditions are such that widespread ozone and or particulate levels are expected to be at or above the unhealthy for sensitive groups category of the air quality index,” the National Weather Service in Chicago said. “Active children and adults especially people with pulmonary or respiratory disease such as asthma should limit prolonged outdoor activity.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Detroit was among the top 10 worst locations for air pollution according to IQair. In contrast, Chicago's air quality was categorized as moderate on Tuesday afternoon and is expected to remain at that level for the next few days.
However, Pittsburgh experienced unhealthy air quality levels, and forecasts indicated a slight shift towards unhealthy levels for sensitive groups such as the elderly, young children, and individuals with respiratory issues on Tuesday.
The city was under an air quality alert throughout the entire day. The situation in these cities highlights the varying degrees of air pollution and the potential risks posed to vulnerable populations.
Several regions in New York and New England, including most of New York state and the entirety of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont, remained under an air quality alert on Tuesday. Cities like Baltimore, Boston, Hartford, Providence, and Montpelier, Vermont, were forecasted to have air quality levels that are considered unhealthy for sensitive groups. In the coming days, a cold front is expected to move southward, causing the smoke from the wildfires to disperse further south and east.
The impact of human-caused climate change has exacerbated the hot and dry conditions that contribute to the ignition and rapid growth of wildfires. Scientists have recently identified that carbon pollution from major fossil fuel and cement companies is linked to millions of acres being ravaged by wildfires in the Western US and Canada, an area roughly equivalent to the size of South Carolina. Furthermore, the smoke emitted during these fires can travel thousands of miles, endangering the health of millions more people downstream.
This underscores the urgent need to address climate change and take proactive measures to prevent and manage wildfires, as their consequences extend far beyond the immediate affected areas.