Aug 12, 2023


Residents from Quinte to Kingston experienced some of the most dangerous smoke and haze in the country Wednesday as a large soot-laden plume stemming from more than 150 wildfires in northern Quebec and northeastern Ontario swept southward through the region.

According to Environment Canada forecasts, the plume – the worst so far this week — arrived over the region around 6 a.m. and was expected to remain so until it cleared somewhat around 2 p.m.

The plume cast a greyish pall across the skyline limiting visibility.

Lesser but still dangerous pollution levels were expected to remain later this week for those with heart and respiratory ailments, said forecasters and health officials who advised residents to avoid outdoors.

A forecast map by Environment Canada showed the plume moving through Quinte contained anywhere from 200 to 500 PM 2.5 (ug/m3), the second highest level of concern according to health officials.

The smoke is sweeping through the region thanks to a slow-moving low weather system in eastern Canada that is rotating in an anti-clockwise motion moving polluted air from northern Quebec and northern Ontario in a southeasterly direction.

Across Canada, 424 fires are burning through forested areas due to dry conditions and a lack of rainfall.

"High levels of air pollution have developed due to smoke from forest fires. Smoke plumes from forest fires in Quebec and northeastern Ontario have resulted in deteriorated air quality. Poor air quality may persist through most of this week," said Environment Canada in a special air quality statement.

"Air quality and visibility due to wildfire smoke can fluctuate over short distances and can vary considerably from hour to hour. Wildfire smoke can be harmful to everyone's health even at low concentrations. Continue to take actions to protect your health and reduce exposure to smoke."

Hastings Prince Edward Public Health issued a joint health advisory with Ontario's Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.

"Wildfire smoke can be harmful to your health even at low concentrations; however, everyone responds differently. Mild irritation and discomfort are common, and usually disappear when the smoke clears. Everyone can take action to reduce their exposure to wildfire smoke. Stop or reduce your activity level if breathing becomes uncomfortable or if you or someone in your care feels unwell."

To combat the effects of smoke inhalation, the health unit advised residents to "drink water to help your body cope with the smoke. Keep your doors and windows closed if the temperature in your home is comfortable."

"People with lung ailments, heart disease, older adults, children, pregnant people, and people who work outdoors are at higher risk of experiencing health effects caused by wildfire smoke. Individuals who are most vulnerable to the health effects of wildfire smoke may benefit from using air purifiers in the home, and well-fitting procedural/surgical masks, when outdoors," the health unit stated.

Severe symptoms of smoke exposure include shortness of breath, wheezing (including asthma attacks), severe cough, dizziness, chest pains and heart palpitations.

The health unit recommended those affected should seek medical attention if they develop severe symptoms.

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