New York City has some of the worst air quality in the country this week because of smoke that has drifted south from wildfires burning in Canada.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos and State Department of Health (DOH) Commissioner Dr. James McDonald issued an Air Quality Health Advisory for the Long Island, New York City Metro, Lower Hudson Valley, Upper Hudson Valley, Eastern Lake Ontario, Central New York and Western New York regions for Thursday, June 8, 2023.
The air quality is forecasted to reach ‘Unhealthy’ AQI levels on Thursday in the New York City Metro, Long Island, Eastern Lake Ontario, Central and Western regions.
The advisory will be in effect from 12 a.m. through 11:59 p.m. on Thursday. Accuweather forecasts expect air quality problems to persist into the evening and into Friday.
Active children and adults, and people with respiratory problems, such as asthma, should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors.
Exposure to particles can cause short-term health effects such as irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat, coughing, sneezing, runny nose, and shortness of breath. Exposure to elevated levels of fine particulate matter can also worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease. People with heart or breathing problems, and children and the elderly may be particularly sensitive to PM 2.5.
When outdoor levels are elevated, going indoors may reduce exposure. If there are significant indoor sources of PM 2.5 (tobacco, candle or incense smoke, or fumes from cooking) levels inside may not be lower than outside. Some ways to reduce exposure are to minimize outdoor and indoor sources and avoid strenuous activities in areas where fine particle concentrations are high.
New York City’s education department canceled all outdoor activities Wednesday, as wildfire smoke wafted from Canada and created unhealthy air conditions across a swath of the Northeast.
Recess, Public School Athletic League sports competitions, and outdoor field days were all canceled, Nathaniel Styer, an education department spokesperson, wrote on Twitter late Tuesday evening. Schools were encouraged to move those activities indoors if possible.
“This is a developing situation and will communicate updates as they come,” Styer wrote.
City officials said that schools will remain open.
The ratings for air quality levels across the five boroughs reached into the 150s Tuesday, according to the U.S. government online platform AirNow. Those levels are considered unhealthy for all people and significantly above exposure recommendations from the World Health Organization.
The sky over the city had an orange glow Tuesday morning and the sun was largely obscured by a smoky haze. Officials warned residents to limit time outdoors and emphasized people with respiratory illnesses or heart disease are especially vulnerable to the dangerous air quality conditions.
The smoky skies are the result of more than 160 forest fires burning in Quebec during what federal officials say is shaping up to be among Canada’s worst fire seasons ever.