US had its worst toxic air pollution from wildfire smoke in recent history on Wednesday. People in New York were exposed to pollution levels more than five times above the national air quality standard.
Smoke from Canadian forest fires caused the worst day of pollution exposure for Americans since 2006.
"It's the worst, Jesus, it was bad," said Marshall Burke, a Stanford University environmental scientist who led the study. Unbelievable, we checked it four times. Unprecedented events on east coast. Historic event.
Average American exposed to 27.5 micrograms/cubic metre of small particulate matter on Wednesday. PM2.5 can cause health problems and death when inhaled.
Pollution levels were higher than the previous largest event in September 2020 on the US west coast due to fires, and more severe for those in the path of the smoke in the north-east US.
In New York, air quality was very poor with particulate matter reaching 195 micrograms, over five times the national standard. Schools and playgrounds closed and people wore masks outside.
Burke warned that yesterday's levels were dangerous for vulnerable groups like the elderly, children, pregnant women, and those with prior medical conditions. Expect more respiratory hospitalisations, pre-term births, and mortalities.
New Yorkers stayed indoors due to the campfire smell and smoke. Indoor air monitors in Manhattan showed people experienced over 100 micrograms of particulate matter.
"Indoor air was bad," he said. Staying home isn't completely safe. Air filters in New York were hard to find yesterday. Eastern seaboard unprepared for air quality events.
Stanford research tracks US wildfire smoke exposure since 2006. Burke said that due to the climate crisis, more people were exposed to toxic wildfire smoke on Wednesday than ever before. California fires caused high air pollution, but more people exposed on the east coast due to large cities.
NYC health officials advise safety measures due to smoky haze from fires in Quebec. Wear high-quality masks, keep windows closed, use air purifiers, and close fresh air intake on air conditioners.
Francesca Dominici from Harvard University advises people to avoid exercising outdoors due to high levels of air pollution. She predicts an increase in hospitalisations for respiratory and cardiovascular issues caused by the smoke.
"Climate change affects us too, not just glaciers and polar bears. We need to protect ourselves from it," she said.
Hope crisis prompts action on climate change. 3 years no outings due to Covid, now can't go out due to air pollution. Nature's message is strong.