New York City’s Air Quality Worsens—Worst in the World

Air Quality Plummets: Breathing Hazardous Smoke equivalent to smoking 6 cigarettes a day!

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On Tuesday, New York City ranked highest in global air pollution as smoke from Quebec’s raging wildfires swept southward, causing significant concerns about ongoing poor air quality. The city’s air quality index exceeded 200, reaching “very unhealthy” levels, surpassing all major metropolitan areas except New Delhi, India. Other cities on the list included Doha, Qatar; Baghdad, Iraq; and Lahore, Pakistan.

The alarming situation led ten central New York State school districts to cancel outdoor activities and events, affecting academic, athletic, and extracurricular engagements, recess, and gym classes due to hazardous air conditions.

Wildfire smoke contains PM2.5, a hazardous particulate matter that can deeply penetrate the lungs and bloodstream, originating from sources like fossil fuel combustion, dust storms, and wildfires. Inhaling PM2.5 has been linked to various health problems, including asthma, heart disease, and respiratory illnesses.

According to the World Health Organization, air pollution-related health issues cause millions of premature deaths yearly, with fine particulate matter contributing to approximately 4.2 million premature deaths in 2016 alone. New York City’s PM2.5 concentration exceeded the WHO’s guidelines by over ten times.

William Barrett, the national senior director of clean air advocacy with the American Lung Association, stressed the importance of taking precautions during high pollution episodes, especially for vulnerable individuals like children, senior citizens, pregnant women, and those with respiratory or cardiovascular diseases. Remaining indoors and monitoring symptoms are crucial steps to minimize exposure risks.

Quebec currently battles over 150 active wildfires, surpassing other Canadian provinces in numbers. The province has witnessed double the average number of wildfires for this time of year, with nearly 9 million acres burned across Canada and almost half a million acres burned in Quebec alone in 2023.

As the wildfire smoke reached Detroit and Chicago, air quality alerts were issued across parts of the Northeast and Midwest. The National Weather Service in Chicago advised limiting outdoor activities, particularly for individuals with asthma or respiratory diseases, due to anticipated unhealthy ozone and particulate matter levels.

New York City’s worsening air quality underscores the urgency to address air pollution and its severe health consequences. Immediate action is necessary to mitigate wildfires, combat climate change, and safeguard the well-being of millions worldwide.