As the smoky haze from Canada’s wildfires fills the air across New York, many are rushing to find masks to protect themselves. Reuters reports that more than a dozen U.S. states issued air-quality alerts on Wednesday urging residents to stay indoors. Authorities warned that the smoke could make breathing difficult and bring health risks. Schools even canceled recess and outdoor activities, listening to the health advisory to stay indoors.
The U.S. National Weather Service warned of poor air quality in parts of the Northeast, including from New England down to South Carolina. The agency’s Washington, D.C.-area office shared on Twitter, “Wearing a mask may help limit irritation for those suffering from respiratory illnesses,” adding that more smoke is expected on Thursday and Friday.
The smoky skies in New York made towering skyscrapers nearly invisible. On Wednesday, New York’s air quality was rated the second worst in the world, according to the Swiss air technology company IQAir. Topping the list is still Delhi, “India’s smog-plagued capital city.”
High levels of smoke have been linked to high risk for heart attacks and strokes, and for people with asthma. Additional effects include eye irritation, itchy skin, and rashes among other issues.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams urged New Yorkers to protect themselves from the haze. One Home Depot in Manhattan was reportedly sold out of air purifiers and masks as New Yorkers are trying to take precautions.
Canada’s wildfire season began early this year, and authorities are concerned that conditions that cause wildfires may not improve as the weather has created persistent warm and dry conditions. Some have warned that the upcoming wildfire season may be the worst yet.