Smoke from wildfires in Canada is currently spreading across much of the U.S., causing concern for millions of people from South Carolina to New Hampshire who are now under unhealthy air alerts.
The smoke has even caused New York's air quality to rank as “unhealthy,” prompting officials to warn people to avoid spending too much time outside. But how exactly are Canada's wildfires making the air quality so bad down here, and how long should we expect to be at risk? Here's what you need to know.
What's Causing the Smoke?
Canada is currently experiencing one of the worst wildfire seasons on record, with over 6.7 million acres already burned from fires this year. Around 150 active forest fires have caused smoke to spread across the U.S. due to a storm system off of the coast of Nova Scotia which pushed the smoke towards the U.S. After that, a low-pressure system in New England helped send the smoke further down towards New York.
How Long Will the Smoke Affect Us?
It's hard to predict exactly how long the smoke will continue to affect us, but according to The Washington Post, the smoke is likely to cycle throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic into June 9 because of current currents. Overall, however, the smoke should be significantly weakened by this weekend due to a “greater westerly component to the winds.”
What Are the Risks of Exposure to the Smoke?
Exposure to the smoke can result in inflammation and weaken your immune system, as small particles from smoke can penetrate your lungs and enter the bloodstream. The particles are small enough to breathe in and can cause cardiovascular issues as well. So it is safest to stay indoors during situations like this. If you do need to go outside, you should limit the amount of time and wear a high-quality mask.
Don't Ignore the Risks
Bad air quality is a serious concern, with the effects of air pollution linked to 6.7 million premature deaths every year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). So it is important to take precautions like staying indoors, wearing a mask, and limiting your exposure to the smoke. Better air quality is on the horizon, but until then, be safe.