Wildfire Smoke Made NYC's Air Worst in the World

Canadian wildfires have brought unhealthy air to much of the eastern US
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 7, 2023 11:40 AM CDT
NYC Air Quality Was Worst of Any Major City
The sun rises over a hazy New York City skyline as seen from Jersey City, New Jersey, on Wednesday.   (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

In New York City, officials have asked vulnerable people to stay indoors or wear masks when they go outside—and it's nothing to do with COVID. Smoke from Canadian wildfires has made the city's air quality "very unhealthy," Mayor Eric Adams said late Tuesday, urging all New Yorkers to "limit outdoor activity to the greatest extent possible." On Tuesday, the city's air quality briefly ranked as the worst in the world among the major cities in the World Air Quality Index, though New Delhi later returned to the top spot, the New York Times reports. New York's air quality had a score of 161 on the index Wednesday morning, keeping it in the "unhealthy" range. It's normally in the "good" range, with an AQI below 50.

With smoke from the wildfires covering much of the eastern US as far as South Carolina, New York is far from the only city with unhealthy air, the Washington Post reports. An Environmental Protection Agency air quality map shows huge areas with low air quality, with exceptionally thick smoke over some areas, at one point including southeast Pennsylvania, pushing those regions into the purple, or "very unhealthy" range. The AQI was 207 in Wilmington, Delaware, on Wednesday morning, and 183 in Washington, DC. In parts of Canada—and upstate New York—the AQI was in the "hazardous" range above 301.

Air quality alerts have been issued in numerous areas, with children, older adults, and people with lung conditions in particular urged to stay inside. "Symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath are a sign to immediately reduce exposure to smoke," the EPA says on its AQI fact page. With hundreds of wildfires burning across Canada, forecasters expect smoke and hazy conditions to linger in the Northeast for at least a few more days, the AP reports. (More wildfires stories.)

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