Dangerous air quality and hazy skies persist as smoke from Canada’s raging wildfires drifts south, leaving more than 100 million people under air quality alerts across a dozen states from Minnesota to New York and down to the Carolinas.
According to CNN, Chicago had the worst air quality among major cities in the world early Thursday, according to IQAir. The air in Washington, DC, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Detroit, and New York City was among the top 10 most polluted.
Smoke will continue to drift across the Midwest and into the mid-Atlantic and Northeast on Thursday. Forecast models predict a slow improvement beginning Thursday and additional decreases by Friday.
Experts advise checking air quality alerts regularly. AirNow.gov, the EPA’s website, allows people to track air quality by entering their ZIP codes. Many smartphones have apps that also track air quality.
The National Weather Service cautioned people to avoid exercising outside, and TV weather anchors suggested commuters take a few more minutes to drive, given lower visibility.
Brady Scott, a fellow at the American Association for Respiratory Care, recommended that people stay indoors as much as possible, with closed doors and windows. That includes activities like exercise, which can cause stress on the lungs. He added that people with respiratory-related health conditions, including asthma, should monitor their symptoms closely. They should also ensure their medications, like inhalers, are available and not expired.
For many people, being indoors is not an option. Putting on a mask is the next best thing if you must be outdoors. Experts say a well-fitting N95 mask can help reduce the quantity of fine particles entering the lungs to help mitigate negative health effects.
For more information on how to navigate wildfires, visit our Wildfire Resource Center. The center includes vetted and sourced preparedness information and safety tips that can help you take action to help protect yourself.