Smoke from Canada Wildfires Cover U.S. East Coast Skies
In some areas, the Air Quality Index (AQI), which measures major pollutants including particulate matter produced by fires, was well above 400, according to Airnow, which sets 100 as "unhealthy" and 300 as "hazardous."
At 12 p.m. EDT (16:00 GMT), Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was experiencing the worst air quality in the country, with an AQI reading of 410. Among major cities, New York had the worst air quality reading in the world on Wednesday afternoon at 342, about double the reading for chronically polluted cities such as Dubai (168) and Delhi (164), according to IQAir.
Smoke Crossing from Canada
The smoke was wafting over the U.S. northern border from Canada, where hundreds of forest fires have scorched 9.4 million acres (3.8 million hectares) and forced 120,000 people from their homes in an unusually early and intense start to Canada's wildfire season.
The skies above New York and many other North American cities grew progressively hazier through Wednesday, with an eerie yellowish tinge filtering through the smoky canopy. The air smelled like burning wood.
Wildfire smoke has been linked with higher rates of heart attacks and strokes, increases in emergency room visits for asthma and other respiratory conditions, and eye irritation, itchy skin and rashes, among other problems.
City pedestrians donned face masks in numbers that recalled the worst days of the coronavirus pandemic.
Poor air quality is likely to persist into the weekend, with a developing storm system expected to shift the smoke westward across the Great Lakes and deeper south through the Ohio Valley and into the mid-Atlantic region, AccuWeather said.
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