Canadian Wildfires Cause Air Quality Alerts for Over 100 Million Americans

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Air quality alerts have been issued for more than 100 million people in the United States due to the impact of Canadian wildfires, as confirmed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday. According to a statement released by the EPA, the alerts range from "Code Orange" — signaling unhealthy conditions for sensitive groups — to more severe levels. The affected region includes a large portion of the Northeastern United States, extending from Chicago in the west to Atlanta in the south. While the Canadian wildfires are believed to be the primary cause, localized emissions and meteorological factors may also contribute to the air pollution levels.

Specifically, many areas in the Northeast and Midatlantic are currently experiencing a "Code Red" air quality index (AQI) of 151 or higher, which is considered unhealthy for all individuals. The smoke from the wildfires in Canada's Quebec province, where the devastating wildfire season has wreaked havoc, has been carried by winds over hundreds of miles, resulting in the widespread air pollution.

The EPA has urged residents in the affected regions to remain vigilant by regularly checking the AQI throughout the day and taking necessary precautions to minimize their exposure. Individuals with pre-existing health conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, or those who are pregnant, should be particularly cautious and seek medical assistance if required. Although healthy adults and children usually recover quickly from smoke exposure without lasting effects, individuals with chronic diseases are at a higher risk. Moreover, children, pregnant women, and the elderly are advised to limit their outdoor activities.

To facilitate monitoring and access to air quality information, the AirNow Fire and Smoke app can be downloaded on smartphones or visited at This resource provides data from both official government air monitors and crowd-sourced information.

The White House has also commented on the dire situation caused by the Canadian wildfires, emphasizing the importance of taking precautions for individuals with health issues. White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre urged residents in the affected areas to follow state and local guidance, while also encouraging people to check on their neighbors, friends, and family members. Jean-Pierre described the wildfires and resulting air pollution as "an alarming example of the ways in which the climate crisis is disturbing our lives."

As the thick haze blanketed Washington, D.C., it was noted that President Joe Biden, who is 80 years old, was not wearing a face mask. When questioned about an upcoming event scheduled for Pride month on the White House lawn, Jean-Pierre stated that there were no schedule changes at the moment but confirmed that the situation was being closely monitored. President Biden has been briefed on the emerging health crisis, with air quality ratings reaching unhealthy levels in multiple US cities. Officials from the United States and Canada have been in contact to address the situation, and US firefighters and equipment have been dispatched to aid in combating the wildfires.

Although the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has lifted the ground stop for flights bound for New York's LaGuardia airport, delays are still being experienced due to the smoke. Flights into Philadelphia are also affected by the wildfire smoke, resulting in an average delay of approximately 30 minutes. Similar delays are expected in Newark. The FAA has adjusted the volume of air traffic in the New York City area airports to account for the rapidly changing visibility caused by the smoke from Canadian wildfires. As of 2:45 p.m. ET, FlightAware data indicates that 120 flights have been canceled in the US, with an additional 1,928 flights delayed.

US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg highlighted the impact of the extreme haze from Canadian wildfires on the airspace in the Northeastern US, which could lead to further flight delays in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. In a tweet, Buttigieg assured that the FAA is prepared to modify operations as needed to accommodate the changing conditions caused by the smoke.

The air quality alerts and subsequent consequences caused by the Canadian wildfires serve as a stark reminder of the increasing disruptions resulting from the climate crisis. It is crucial for individuals, communities, and governments to continue taking proactive steps to mitigate the effects of wildfires and address the underlying causes of climate change.

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