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Wildfires are typically associated with causing local environmental issues, but a recent surge in Canadian wildfires is impacting air quality thousands of miles away. This Tuesday, smoke from over 100 wildfires in Quebec reached New York City, resulting in the city briefly topping the list of the world’s worst air Pollution.
Source: Bloomberg Television/Youtube
This occurrence wasn’t a one-time event. The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic have experienced periodic bouts of wildfire smoke for more than a week, raising serious health concerns about continuous poor air quality. The air quality index in NYC reached over 200 on Tuesday, a level classified as “very unhealthy” by IQair, an air quality monitoring company.
One of the key dangers of wildfire smoke is PM2.5, a particulate matter that can enter the bloodstream when inhaled, leading to severe health problems like asthma, heart disease, and other respiratory illnesses. On Tuesday, PM2.5 concentrations in New York City’s air were over ten times the guideline set by the World Health Organization.
The smoke has affected more than just NYC. Air quality alerts were issued across the Northeast and Midwest as smoke spread as far west as Detroit and Chicago. The pervasive nature of this smoke highlights the interconnectedness of environmental issues and reminds us that the impact of wildfires isn’t just a local issue.
Scientists have linked this surge in wildfires directly to human-caused climate change, which is exacerbating hot and dry conditions. The smoke from these fires can travel thousands of miles, impacting millions of people in their path. Glory Dolphin Hammes, CEO of IQAir North America, affirmed, “Wildfires is very much so a global warming issue… It has very much to do with Climate change, which is creating essentially unsafe conditions.”
As we grapple with the realities of Climate change, the situation serves as a poignant reminder for us to take concerted action. We can start by reducing our carbon footprint, supporting sustainable policies, and raising awareness about the need for comprehensive environmental change. The health of our planet—and consequently, our health—depends on it.
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