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257 views • June 7, 2023

Federal Agency Issues Air Quality Alerts for Millions of Americans

Capitol Report
Capitol Report
Smoke from ongoing Canadian wildfires has prompted air quality alerts for millions of Americans across the northeastern and mid-Atlantic U.S. states. As of the morning of June 7, at least 13 states have issued air quality alerts in some areas because of wildfires in the province of Quebec, saying the smoke has blocked the sky. The federal National Weather Service has issued a range of air quality advisories and warnings for New York state, Vermont, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and Rhode Island. Officials in Washington D.C. issued a "Code RED Air Quality Alert" because of the smoke and haze, while New York City (NYC) Public Schools canceled outdoor activities. "We urge everyone to reduce prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors," NYC Public Schools wrote on Twitter on June 7. The air quality in New York City worsened by June 6 and will "deteriorate further" on the afternoon and evening of June 7, New York City Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement. "At this point, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has issued an Air Quality Health Advisory for all five boroughs. While conditions are anticipated to temporarily improve later tonight through tomorrow morning, they are expected to deteriorate further tomorrow afternoon and evening," Adams said. “Currently, we are taking precautions out of an abundance of caution to protect New Yorkers’ health until we are able to get a better sense of future air quality reports." The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stated that hazy skies, reduced visibility, and the odor of burning wood are likely and that the smoke will linger for a few days in northern states. “It’s not unusual for us to get fire smoke in our area. It’s very typical in terms of northwest Canada,” said Darren Austin, a meteorologist and senior air quality specialist with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. But, usually, the smoke has been aloft and hasn’t affected people’s health, he said. Officials in Minnesota issued warnings to residents that smoke from the wildfires is blanketing much of the state on June 6. In an alert on June 5, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency stated that a band of smoke could linger this week because of “very light winds.” New York’s air quality rating was ranked as the worst air quality of any city in the world on June 6, according to the IQAir World Air Quality Index. The city's air quality is generally in the "good category." As of June 7, Detroit was ranked as No. 2, while New York City was No. 3, according to the website. New Delhi was No. 1 and Dhaka, Bangladesh, was No. 4. No other major U.S. cities were in the top 50. The Quebec-area fires are big and relatively close, about 500 to 600 miles away from Rhode Island. And they followed wildfires in Nova Scotia that resulted in a short-lived air quality alert on May 30, according to Austin. “If you have filters on your home HVAC system, you should make sure they’re up to date and high quality,” Dr. David Hill, a pulmonologist in Waterbury, Connecticut, and a member of the American Lung Association’s National Board of Directors, told The Associated Press. “Some people, particularly those with underlying lung disease, or heart disease, should consider investing in in air purifiers for their homes.” Update There are blazes in nearly all of Canada's 10 provinces and territories, with Quebec being the worst impacted because of multiple fires caused by lightning. Wildfires are common in Canada's western provinces, but this year, flames have been mushrooming rapidly in eastern Canada, forcing home evacuations and the federal government to send in the military. About 3.3 million hectares have already burned—some 13 times the 10-year average—and more than 120,000 people have been at least temporarily forced out of their homes. "I want to highlight that people need to continue to listen to local authorities on how to stay safe, in
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