(AP) — Drifting smoke from the ongoing wildfires across Canada is creating curtains of haze and raising air quality concerns throughout the Great Lakes region, and in parts of the central and eastern United States.
In Minnesota, a record 23rd air quality alert was issued Tuesday through late Wednesday night across much of the state, as smoky skies obscure the skylines of Minneapolis and St Paul.
Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy on Tuesday issued an air quality alert for the entire state, while in Chicago — where the air quality has been categorised “unhealthy” by the US Environmental Protection Agency — officials are urging young people, older adults and residents with health issues to spend more time indoors.
“Just driving into the zoo … you could just see around the buildings, kind of just haze,” said Shelly Woinowski, who was visiting the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.
Some day care centres in the Chicago area have told parents that their children will remain indoors Tuesday due to the poor air quality, while one youth sports club says it adjusted its activities to add more time indoors.
“We recommend children, teens, seniors, people with heart or lung disease, and individuals who are pregnant avoid strenuous activities and limit their time outdoors,” Mayor Brandon Johnson said in a release. “As these unsafe conditions continue, the city will continue to provide updates and take swift action to ensure that vulnerable individuals have the resources they need to protect themselves and their families.”
Earlier this month, massive fires burning stretches of Canadian forests blanketed the northeastern United States and the Great Lakes region, turning the air yellowish gray, and prompting warnings for people to stay inside and keep 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 these particles.