Monroe County’s top doc: ‘All of us at risk’ from wildfire smoke, should stay indoors

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UPDATE: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has extended the air quality advisory through Thursday, June 8.

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The head of the Monroe County Health Department is urging people to remain inside Wednesday due to poor air quality.

An air quality health advisory for the Rochester region will remain in effect on Wednesday. It’s due to the continued haziness in the sky because of the Canadian wildfires. Wednesday’s air quality is even worse than Tuesday’s.

See which events are canceled and places are closed for air quality

Dr. Michael Mendoza says it’s important to keep windows and doors closed.

“Generally speaking, people with chronic lung or heart conditions, older adults, teenagers, pregnant women, and outdoor workers are most at risk for adverse health effects from wildfire smoke,” he says.

However, because of the bad air quality, “all of us are at elevated risk.” He recommends wearing an N95 or KN95 mask outside to make breathing easier.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation issued the alert for Western New York, Long Island, New York City Metro, Eastern Lake Ontario, and Central New York.

AirNow, an air quality monitoring system run by several government agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency, shows Rochester’s air as unhealthy with a very unhealthy ranking for particulate matter 2.5. Those are particles so fine that they can travel deep in the respiratory tract.

The EPA warns people with heart or lung disease, along with older and younger people, to avoid all outdoor activities. It also recommends that everyone shorten outdoor activities or postpone them until air quality is better.

People should move indoors or call a medical professional if they experience coughing or difficulty breathing. In addition, the Humane Society at Lollypop says pets’ outside time should be limited. Pet owners should watch for coughing, difficulty breathing, fatigue, or watery eyes.

The News10NBC First Alert Weather Team has been tracking air quality. Visibility has decreased since 3 a.m. on Wednesday but conditions will improve going into the weekend. That’s because the rain expected for the weekend will shift the direction of the wind farther south, pushing the smoke away from Rochester.

Northernly winds have carried smoke and particulate matter from wildfires around Quebec, Canada hundreds of miles away to Rochester. Canada is experiencing one of its worst wildfire seasons ever. More than 160 fires have been reported in Quebec including at least 114 that were still out of control on Tuesday. The fires have forced about 10,000 people from their homes in Quebec.

The smell of smoke is so strong because the high atmospheric pressure is stopping the smoke from rising, instead trapping it in the inversion layer of warm and cool air.