Smoke from Canadian wildfires enveloped a large swath of the Midwest and northeastern United States on Monday and Tuesday, creating a thick haze that experts have warned poses a major health threat.
And air quality alerts have been issued in at least eight states, with health officials warning those in vulnerable groups, such as children, people with heart or lung disease, or those over 65, to limit their time outdoors.
According to AccuWeather, air quality alerts have been issued for Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont and New Hampshire.
How dangerous is it?
“Smoke consists of gases and particulate matter, the same pollutants responsible for poor air quality,” explained Boris Koenen, an air quality scientist at Plume Labs who spoke to AccuWeather.
In New York City, the Air Quality Index (AQI)—which measures the amount of pollutants in the air on a scale from 0 to 500—is currently the second worst in the United States, at 166, a level considered “unhealthy.”
“There are enough smoke particles in the air that this could be an air quality concern, not just for sensitive groups but for everyone living in the Northeast.” Fox Weather meteorologist Britta Merwin told viewers.
The air quality in Indianapolis and Dayton, Ohio was only slightly better, with an AQI of 161, but it was still considered unhealthy.
Where exactly are the fires?
There are currently 414 active wildfires burning across Canada. According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centerwith more than half (241) being “out of control”.
To date, the fires have destroyed more than 9 million acres and forced the evacuation of more than 100,000 people.
Read more on Yahoo News: Canada is heading towards the worst wildfire season ever (Reuters)
In the past week, at least 14 bushfires have smoked in Nova Scotia spread across the northeastwith residents from Vermont to Connecticut reporting that they could not only see it, but also smell it.
Is there a risk of wildfires in the United States?
Yes. According to the National Weather Service, five states — Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan, Washington and Alaska — were under “red flag” warnings on Tuesday due to hot, dry, and unstable conditions.
Such warnings are issued when weather conditions in an area are ripe for the spread of wildfires due to a combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and dry fuel.
The weather service warned people in those states to avoid any activities that could lead to wildfires, such as outdoor grilling, smoking, and logging.
“Camping, outdoor grills, smoking materials, chain saws and all-terrain vehicles all have the potential to spark and start a dangerous and destructive fire,” the weather service said, adding that “any fires that develop will likely spread quickly.”