Health Alerts in New York and Ottawa due to Canadian Wildfire Smoke
Health authorities in New York, Toronto, and Ottawa have issued warnings to residents regarding the health hazards caused by smoke from early summer wildfires in eastern Canada. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has specifically issued a health advisory for counties including New York, Bronx, and Queens, urging caution and suggesting a reduction in strenuous outdoor physical activities to minimize the risk of adverse health effects.
Unprecedented Wildfire Season in Canada
Canada is experiencing an unusually early and intense start to its wildfire season, setting the stage for what could be the country’s most devastating year in terms of wildfires. The persistently warm and dry conditions are projected to continue for months, exacerbating the situation. Fires have spread across nearly all of Canada’s 10 provinces and territories, with Quebec being the most severely impacted due to multiple fires ignited by lightning strikes.
Air Quality Alerts in Ottawa and Toronto
The Canadian capital, Ottawa, which is situated near Quebec, has been shrouded in a thick haze on June 6, with air quality reaching the highest risk level on Environment Canada’s Air Quality Health Index. Categorized as level 10+, the air quality represents a “very high risk” to public health. Similarly, Toronto has also experienced pollution due to the wildfire smoke, with conditions expected to persist throughout the majority of the week, according to the government-run weather agency.
Health Risks and Precautions
Even at low concentrations, wildfire smoke can have detrimental effects on health. Individuals with pre-existing lung or heart diseases, as well as older adults, children, and pregnant women, face a higher risk of health complications from the smoke, as stated by Environment Canada. It is crucial for these vulnerable groups to take necessary precautions to safeguard their well-being.
International Assistance and Evacuations
Canada’s Foreign Minister, Melanie Joly, expressed gratitude to the United States, Mexico, South Africa, and France for their support in sending firefighters to assist in combating the wildfires. While wildfires are common in Canada’s western provinces, the rapid escalation of fires in eastern Canada has resulted in home evacuations and the deployment of the military by the federal government.
So far, approximately 3.3 million hectares of land have been scorched, surpassing the 10-year average by thirteen times. Over 120,000 individuals have been temporarily displaced from their homes. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in a statement from Ottawa, emphasized the importance of listening to local authorities for guidance on safety measures, particularly in regions like Ottawa that are affected by the smoke from wildfires.