Smoke from Canadian wildfires sets off health alerts in New York, Ottawa

Ottawa, June 7 (BNA): Authorities in New York, Toronto and Ottawa warned residents Tuesday of the health risks of smoky air from unprecedented wildfires in early summer in eastern Canada.

An unusually severe and early start to the wildfire season has put Canada on track for its worst year on record as warm, dry conditions are expected to last for months.

Fires have broken out in nearly all of Canada’s 10 provinces and territories, with Quebec hardest hit due to multiple fires caused by lightning, according to Reuters.

The New York State Department of Conservation has issued health advice for counties including New York, the Bronx and Queens.

The state recommended that residents consider limiting strenuous physical activity outdoors to reduce the risk of adverse health effects.

Canada’s capital Ottawa, which borders the province of Quebec, was shrouded in haze on Tuesday morning, with air quality in category 10+, the worst level in Environment Canada’s Air Quality Health Index, indicating “very high risk.”

“Plumes of smoke from local wildfires as well as wildfires in Quebec have deteriorated air quality,” Environment Canada said in an air quality alert for Ottawa.

The government-run weather agency said the air over Toronto is also polluted and conditions could persist for most of this week.

Environment Canada said that wildfire smoke can harm health even in low concentrations, and that people with lung or heart disease as well as the elderly, children and pregnant women are at greater health risks from wildfire smoke.

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On Tuesday, Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Jolie thanked the United States, Mexico, South Africa and France for sending firefighters to help.

Wildfires are common in Canada’s western provinces, but this year the flames spread so quickly in eastern Canada that home evacuations were forced and the federal government sent in the military.

Some 3.3 million hectares have already burned – about 13 times the 10-year average – and more than 120,000 people have been forced to leave their homes at least temporarily.

“I want to highlight that people need to continue listening to local authorities about how they can stay safe, including in places like Ottawa that are affected by smoke from wildfires,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa.


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