Canadian wildfires trigger air quality alerts in Pa.


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Dec 01, 2023

Canadian wildfires trigger air quality alerts in Pa.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection raised its statewide air

Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection raised its statewide air pollution advisory to code red Wednesday as smoke from Canadian wildfires continued to blanket much of the mid-Atlantic.

The DEP urged all Pennsylvania residents to limit outdoor exercise and strenuous activity during high levels of particle pollution. Children, teens, older adults, pregnant people and those with heart or lung disease are especially vulnerable.

Pittsburgh-area residents may see some relief from the murky haze and elevated pollution levels this weekend amid expected wind pattern shifts and rainfall, according to Pittsburgh's National Weather Service.

The weather pattern pushing smoke from wildfires in eastern Quebec is expected to continue until at least Friday for most of Pennsylvania, according to the DEP. Conditions are likely to be worse further east.

Particle pollution is a mixture of liquid droplets and solid particles like smoke, dust, dirt and other matter suspended in the air. Fine particles, also called PM2.5, pose the greatest risk to public health when it comes to particulate matter. Exposure can worsen heart and lung disease, and cause headaches, sinus irritation, fatigue, breathing problems and chest pains.

"For the next day or two, I encourage people to limit time outside, especially if you are sensitive to poor air quality," said Acting Secretary of Health Dr. Debra Bogen.

The National Air Quality Index, or AQI, offers color-coded air quality forecasts and reports on a scale of 0 to 500. Levels above 100 are considered unhealthy for sensitive groups and levels above 150 are considered unhealthy for the general public.

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Air quality reports throughout Beaver County showed particle pollution at levels unhealthy for sensitive groups Tuesday and Wednesday. The AQI was 110 in Beaver and 126 in Beaver Falls Wednesday afternoon.

Some areas of eastern Pennsylvania will see very unhealthy or hazardous conditions this week. Air monitors in Scranton Wednesday afternoon showed a hazardous AQI of 389, which can cause "serious aggravation of heart or lung disease," premature death among vulnerable populations and serious respiratory issues among the general population, according to the DEP. Monitors in the Lehigh Valley detected hazardous levels of air pollution, too.

Residents and business owners are asked to help reduce fine particulate air pollution in the midst of deteriorating conditions by avoiding the open burning of leaves, trash and other materials, eliminating fireplace and wood stove use and avoiding gas-powered lawn and garden equipment until conditions improve.

The Allegheny County Health Department said Wednesday the 24-hour PM2.5 standard in the Mon Valley, like many areas in southwestern Pennsylvania, is expected to fluctuate throughout the day and may reach "unhealthy" ranges later Wednesday. Companies most significantly contributing to particulate pollution in the Mon Valley region "must temporarily reduce particulate emissions" as a result.

"Canada's wildfires are being fueled by dry conditions with breezy winds, which will increase the chances of periods of elevated concentrations of PM2.5," the health department said in an alert. "Similar conditions may continue Thursday."

More than 100 active wildfires blazed in bordering Canadian provinces as of Wednesday, sending smoke hundreds of miles south that covered large population centers like New York City and Philadelphia in a thick, orange haze and some of the worst air quality in the nation.

When air pollution levels are high, residents are advised to:

To see current air quality conditions in your area, visit

More:Erie's air quality reaches unhealthy level due to smoke, soot from Canadian wildfires

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