Real-Time Air Quality Updates: Smoke from Canadian bushfires affects millions of people across the United States

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4 months ago / 1:36 PM EDT

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NASA forecasts for the next few days

A new forecast from NASA shows how much of the country could be shrouded in smoke from wildfires over the next four days. The animation, produced by scientists at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, shows a thick plume swirling over the northeast Wednesday and Thursday, with conditions improving slightly toward the weekend.

Over the next few days, NASA’s model suggests that a portion of the country stretching from the Midwest to the Southeast could also experience hazy conditions, as tentacles of smoke waft over these regions. The yellow and red colors in the animation show the concentrations of small particles commonly found in air pollution from wildfire smoke.

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12 months ago / 1:29 pm EDT

Fire smoke affecting air travel, with flights temporarily grounded at LaGuardia

Smoke from wildfires drifting across the Northeast is impacting air travel today.

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Departures were held up at New York City’s LaGuardia Airport due to poor visibility until 2 p.m. ET, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA also suspended flights from the Upper Midwest and East Coast to LaGuardia.

Newark Liberty International Airport tweeted that the current smoking condition may affect your journey, please check with your airline to determine the status of your flight. The FAA said it was slowing flights to Newark.

Wind and haze were reported at airports in the New York City area, the Washington, DC metro area and Philadelphia, the FAA said in a daily air traffic report Wednesday.

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Samuel Ausby with the FAA Command Center said in a video shared on Twitter: We’re dealing with some smoke and haze in the Northeast today.”

“There are some wildfires in Canada that have produced some smoke, due to wind patterns now affecting the northeastern United States, so from Boston, the New York metropolitan area, Philadelphia and the The DC metro area is all experiencing some smoke that could impact travel through airports, he said.

So far, there have been a total of 1,147 delayed and 73 canceled flights, according to FlightAware.com.

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41 million ago / 12:59 pm EDT

Climate change is spurring wildfires in Canada

Climate change is increasing the impact of wildfires in Canada, according to Canada’s 2019 Changing Climate Report, the country’s national assessment of climate impacts.

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It’s not really the number, it’s mostly the size of the fires, said Xianli Wang, a fire research scientist at the Canadian Forest Service whose work is cited in the report. Fires are bigger and more intense, and we see many more fires burning during the night, making them more difficult to control.

Wang said climate change is increasing the length of fire season in Canadian provinces and increasing the likelihood of wildfires. Models suggest the trend will continue and expand as the climate warms, Wang added. Historic policies that prioritized fire suppression have also allowed dry vegetation and log fuels to build up on the landscape in many areas, increasing fire potential.

If you don’t get many dry, windy, hot days, the fires will be quiet, and the fires may not grow as big as they are this year. As soon as the fire weather is ready for the fire to grow, they go crazy, Wang said. Climate change is definitely doing his job.

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20 million ago / 1:20 PM EDT

Air purifiers can reduce indoor particles by up to 85%

Portable air purifiers with HEPA filters can be very effective, reducing indoor particle concentrations by up to 85%, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

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Choose air purifiers that have a clean air delivery rate—a metric of how effective they are at removing pollutants of at least two-thirds the size of the room they’re intended for, experts say.

For most rooms, a clean air delivery rate of 300 or more cubic feet per minute should suffice, said Dr. Barbara Mann, a pulmonologist and assistant professor of medicine at the Mount Icahn School of Medicine. Sinai in New York.

To maximize the effectiveness of air purifiers, change your filters at the recommended intervals, he added. Keep windows closed when using them. When returning from long periods outdoors in areas with poor air quality, change, take off your shoes and shower, he said.

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Pollutants can also come from internal sources, said Dr. Peter Moschovis, a pulmonologist and critical care physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School.

Don’t generate extra particles indoors if you can, he said. So, smoking, vaping, burning incense, aerosol essential oils all these things are not good for the lungs at baseline.

1h ago / 12:25pm EDT

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Can smoke from wildfires make allergy symptoms worse?

Although smoke itself is not an allergen, it can irritate the nasal passages and airways.

If you have allergies on top of that, you have two different things causing symptoms at the same time, said Dr. Stokes Peebles, an allergy and lung specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Symptoms can also get worse depending on what’s burning. If a person is sensitive to an environmental allergen, such as trees or grass, breathing in the smoke that results from burning that allergen can cause a reaction.

Additionally, heat can cause pollen to rise and remain in the air for longer periods of time, spreading those particles hundreds of miles away, Peebles said. They can travel farther than they normally would because they go higher up in the atmosphere.

An N95 mask can help block out those particles for people especially prone to environmental allergens, she said.

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1h ago / 12:26pm EDT

Pennsylvania warns of “code red” air quality.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection said today was a “code red air quality action day” due to smoke from the wildfires.

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“Pennsylvania residents should limit their outdoor activities, especially the elderly, children, those who are active outdoors, and those with lung or breathing problems such as asthma, emphysema or bronchitis,” a tweet read.

1h ago / 12:27pm EDT

New York mayor urges ‘vulnerable’ residents to stay indoors as city’s air quality plummets

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New York Mayor Eric Adams offered a stark warning in a briefing this morning about deteriorating air quality in the city, which is currently among the worst on the planet.

“We recommend vulnerable New Yorkers stay indoors, and all New Yorkers should limit their outdoor activities as much as possible,” she said. She added that this “wasn’t the day to train for a marathon or have an outdoor event with your kids.”

“Stay inside, close windows and doors, and use air purifiers if you have them,” Adams said.

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Air quality in New York City was 158 on the air quality index (AQI) at noon, according to IQAir, a Swiss air monitoring company. IQAir labels the air quality as “unhealthy”.

IQAir’s real-time air quality ranking shows that New York City currently has the fourth worst air quality in the world, behind only Delhi, India; Dakha, Bangladesh; and Toronto.

3 hours ago / 11:01 am EDT

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Is poor air quality bad for your pets?

Absolutely, experts say.

Other mammals suffer from many of the same lung conditions as humans, said Dr. Purvi Parikh, an allergist and immunologist at the Allergy & Asthma Network.

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People should keep their pets indoors as much as possible, said Brady Scott, a fellow of the American Association for Respiratory Care.

If pets are outside, running outside, or spending most of their time outside, it seems like it would likely create some irritation in their breathing and also in their airways and lungs, she said.

3 hours ago / 11:01 am EDT

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How to remove pollutants from indoor air

Indoor air filters can help reduce or remove pollutants, including small particulate matter, from fire smoke. These tiny particles, measuring less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter or about 4 percent of the width of a strand of hair, are small enough to be breathed deep into the lungs and can enter the bloodstream. Studies have found that even short-term exposure to small particles increases the risk of a number of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

Health officials are recommending people stay indoors as much as possible when air pollution levels are high. Indoor air filtration, including HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems and portable air purifiers, can also help remove pollutants that may have moved inside homes and other buildings.

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People can purchase portable air purifiers with replaceable HEPA filters that filter out small particulate matter or PM2.5. HEPA filters are also available for homes that have central heating and cooling systems. Californias Environmental Protection Agency recommends using an indoor air purifier whenever the air quality index reaches unhealthy levels or if people see or smell smoke in the air.

But people can also make their own indoor air purifiers by attaching an air filter to a box fan with duct tape, brackets, or a bungee cord. If window air conditioners, HVAC systems, or portable air purifiers aren’t available, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has said DIY air purifiers can serve as a temporary alternative. to commercial air purifiers. The agency warned that do-it-yourself air purifiers should not be used routinely and concerns have been raised about the potential risk of fire or burns if the fans overheat.

The EPA added that there is limited research on the effectiveness of DIY air purifiers, but a study published in July 2021 in the journal Aerosol and Air Quality Research found that low-cost filtration methods, including Attaching a filter to a box fan, can have significant benefit for filtering sub-micron smoke particles and can reduce PM2.5 exposure during wildfire smoke events.

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3 hours ago / 10:41 am EDT

Washington, DC, visitors brave haze amid poor air quality

Los Angeles resident Vera Zurndorfer is no stranger to poor air quality. During California fire season, she “is always like this,” she told NBC News in Washington, DC

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“I feel sorry for anyone who has to breathe this stuff,” she said. “This is damn bad.”

Washington’s air quality, while still rated by the Government Council as unhealthy, is a respite for some trips from New York.

“It was more intense there,” said Chris Erdos, who traveled to Washington from upstate New York. “I could smell it, and it was really confusing.”

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Smoke blocks the sun this morning above Union Station in Washington, DCGinger Gibson / NBC News
Foggy skies blanket the Washington landmarks and skyline as seen from Arlington, Virginia.Win McNamee/Getty Images


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