Smoke from Canadian wildfires is still producing elevated levels of fine particulates in the region, prompting the fourth consecutive day of air quality alerts.
“Exposure to smoke can cause health problems for anyone, but certain groups are more at risk than others,” said Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff in a statement. “These include people with chronic heart or lung disease, children, the elderly and pregnant women. It is important to take precautions until our air quality improves.”
The air quality index for today is 103 in Dayton, 123 in Cincinnati and 97 in Columbus, according to AirNow. Any reading above 101 is considered hazardous for sensitive groups.
Smoke from wildfires contains particulates, which can be inhaled into your lungs and cause irritation of the eyes, nose or throat, coughing, shortness of breath, and chest pain; and can also aggravate chronic heart and lung conditions, Vanderhoff said.
In a Canadian fire season that is just getting started but could become the worst on record, more than 400 blazes — more than one-third of them in Quebec — burned Thursday and displaced 20,000 people in Canada. The smoke billowing from the fires sent plumes of fine particulate matter as far away as North Carolina and northern Europe, the Associated Press reported.
U.S. National Weather Service meteorologist Bryan Ramsey said the smoke will probably be hanging around.
“Conditions are likely to remain unhealthy, at least until the wind direction changes or the fires get put out,” Ramsey said. “Since the fires are raging — they’re really large — they’re probably going to continue for weeks. But it’s really just going be all about the wind shift.”
The smoke has led Major League Baseball to postpone some games, caused thousands of flights to be delayed and closed parks, including the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.
The most important precaution is to limit outdoor activity, especially outdoor exercise, and to spend more time indoors, Vanderhoff said.