DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit area woke up Wednesday to one of the worst air quality in the United States as smoke from Canada’s wildfires settled over most of the region. of the Great Lakes and an unhealthy haze spread southward into Missouri and Kentucky.
Drifting smoke from the wildfires has lowered haze curtains over large swaths of the United States, entering southern Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, and moving into parts of Virginia -Western.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow.gov site showed Detroit in the “dangerous” range and warned that “everyone should stay indoors and reduce activity levels”. Chicago, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Ohio; and Pittsburgh all look “very unhealthy.” A wider circle of unhealthy air has spread through St. Louis and Louisville, Ky.
“The more you breathe, the more you inhale, literally, fire, camp smoke, into your lungs,” said Detroit resident Darren Riley, who said he would wear a mask if he had to step out of the all Wednesday. .
The smoke is exacerbating air quality issues for poor and black communities who are already more likely to live near polluting factories and in rental housing with mold and other triggers.
Detroit’s southwest side is home to a number of sprawling refineries and manufacturing plants and has struggled with air pollution for decades. It’s also one of the poorest parts of a predominantly black city, which has an overall poverty rate of around 30 percent. According to a 2022 report by the American Lung Association, the city’s short-term ozone and particulate pollution ranks among the worst in the nation.
Riley’s own experiences being diagnosed with asthma in 2018 a few years after moving to Detroit and poor air quality in parts of the city prompted him to start JustAir, which monitors air pollution. air.
“Just because you were born in a certain ZIP code or into a certain family with a certain skin color doesn’t mean you should have an uneven approach,” said Riley, who is black.
Elsewhere, Milwaukee County Emergency Medical Services has seen a spike in calls for residents with respiratory issues, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Data from the Office of Emergency Management shows that a disproportionate number of calls for respiratory issues – 54.8% – have been for black people in Milwaukee, according to the newspaper. Milwaukee County’s population is 27.1% black.
In Chicago, Mayor Brandon Johnson urged young people, the elderly and residents with health issues to spend more time indoors and promised “swift action to ensure vulnerable people have the resources they need.” need to protect themselves and their families”.
Minnesota issued a record 23rd air quality alert for the year through late Wednesday evening as smoky skies obscured the skylines of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana were among other states issuing air quality alerts, and cities like Louisville also advised people to limit prolonged or strenuous outdoor activity.
“It’s a particularly thick smoke,” National Weather Service meteorologist Byran Jackson said Wednesday.
Jackson added that another wave of smoky air would cross western New York and western Pennsylvania later Wednesday. “And then it continues over the northern mid-Atlantic. It will persist there until Thursday,” he said.
In Canada, 490 fires are burning, of which 255 are considered out of control.
The Canadian Interagency Wildfire Center reported on Monday that 76,129 square kilometers (29,393 square miles) of land, including forests, have burned in Canada since January 1. That surpasses the previous record set in 1989 of 75,596 square kilometers (29,187 square miles), according to the National Forestry Database.
Wet weather in Quebec allowed firefighters to get ahead of some of the blazes, but there was not enough rain to put out the wildfires. Environment Canada meteorologist Simon Legault said he expects the rain to stop falling by Wednesday morning in areas most affected by the wildfires. Many of the fires burning in Canada are in Quebec and Ontario, closer to the more populated parts of North America than the wilds of the West.
Earlier this month, massive fires scorching swathes of Canadian forests blanketed the northeastern United States and the Great Lakes region in smoke, turning the air yellowish gray and prompting people to stay indoors. inside and to keep the windows closed.
The small particles in wildfire smoke can irritate the eyes, nose and throat, and can affect the heart and lungs, making it harder to breathe. Health officials say it’s important to limit outdoor activities as much as possible to avoid breathing in the particles.
President Joe Biden saw the impact on Wednesday during a visit to Chicago, where he was to promote his renewable energy policies during a major speech on the economy. Biden described the wildfires in Canada as clear evidence of climate change.
Global warming will produce hotter and longer heat waves, causing bigger and smoldering fires, said Joel Thornton, professor and chair of the department of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington.
“You can smell it,” said Priti Marwah, who was starting a run along Chicago’s lake on Tuesday. “I run a hundred miles a week, so it’s going to be dangerous today. You can feel it…even just parking there and getting out, I can feel it in my lungs.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said a cold front will bring cleaner air from the west through the Great Lakes region by early Thursday.
Associated Press contributors include Trisha Ahmed and Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis, Ken Kusmer in Indianapolis, Rebecca Reynolds in Louisville, Ky., and Julie Walker in New York.