With the current air quality alert, is it safe to breathe outside?

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ROCHESTER, N.Y.- Doctors say while most people should have no breathing problems during this alert, people with respiratory issues should closely monitor their health.

“I have asthma, and it’s getting more difficult to breathe. I need to go get my inhaler,” said Lisa Clayborne.

The effects of the more than 200 wildfires in Canada can be felt right here in the Greater Rochester area. Just take a look at this shot of Rochester’s downtown skyline taken from Cobbs Hill Park and you can see how the haze hovers over the city.

“It makes me pretty speechless to be honest, but you know we’re affected by this far away, and we’re not getting the worst of it,” said Sara Cousins.

The current air quality index is at a number that is considered unhealthy. Rochester Regional Health’s Dr. Shahzad Mustafa, chief of allergy, immunology, and rheumatology, says this could affect the health of some people.

“The air quality index is kind of a measure of the number of pollutants in the air. Not so much allergens. So, that air quality can therefore affect your respiratory status, particularly individuals who got chronic respiratory conditions, asthma, emphysema, things like that.”

Tuesday, several school districts, including RCSD cancelled all outdoor activities while the air quality alert remains in place.

“Asthma is prevalent in 10% of the population, so in the typical classroom, that’s a couple of kids, a couple of individuals. So, I think it’s a reasonable approach to, absolutely out of an abundance of caution. I think that needs to be noted that schools and districts are taking these measures out of an abundance of caution,” said Dr. Mustafa.

Dr. Mustafa says healthy people should not be overly concerned with the air quality. We asked him if wearing a mask is necessary while outdoors.

“If you think it helps you being outdoors, certainly. I don’t think there’s any downside to wearing a mask. We’ve been used to it for a couple of years now, but it’s far from a recommendation, or something we should all be doing.”

Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack said the the remainder of the card for Tuesday at Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack was called off after the running of the third race. 

“Due to New York State Gaming Commission safety recommendations, the final five races on today’s card were canceled as the result of compromised air quality in the region from ongoing Canadian wildfires.   Finger Lakes is scheduled to resume racing tomorrow, Wednesday, June 7. First race post time is scheduled for 1:20 p.m.”