The air pollution sweeping across the Northeastern United States this week from smoke from the fires in Canada is “extremely rare” and “extreme,” said Ryan Stauffer, a NASA scientist who specializes in air pollution.
The expert told AFP on Wednesday that this episode should continue for at least the next two days.
How out of the ordinary is this event?
“In the last 20 or 25 years, the only event that has come even close to what we are witnessing in the last few days is a very similar situation on July 7 and 8, 2002.
“And that was…
“And for many stations in the Northeast, that is the most polluted date, for that very matter, that is on record.
“These observations that come yesterday and today are certainly to rival the July 2002 event. So this is extremely rare…it’s really just an extreme event.”
What made it possible?
“The really unique aspect of this event is that the recent wildfires in Quebec, over the past several days, the weather pattern has been like there is a large high pressure system over central Canada, and there is a large low pressure system off the coast of the northeastern United States.
“So these two weather systems combined drive winds from the north and allow the smoke from these fires in Quebec to flow directly into the Northeast and mid-Atlantic United States.”
What type of pollution?
“We’re very concerned, when we think of smoke from wildfires, with what we call PM 2.5. It stands for particulate matter 2.5, which means these particles are smaller than 2.5 microns – 2.5 micrometers, or millionths of a meter. These particles are much smaller than the width of human hair (…)
“These particles are so small that when you breathe them in, they don’t irritate your lungs and cause breathing problems. They’re actually small enough to enter your bloodstream.”
“And so it can cause all kinds of health problems, things like increased stress on the heart, heart attack, stroke, because it basically travels through the bloodstream in all the organs in your body.”
“We know that whenever pollution is observed at code red levels, we can expect more hospitalizations and hospital visits to increase.
“It obviously affects those with pre-existing conditions. Those who are sensitive to air pollution, children, the elderly, it affects them the most.”
© 2023 AFP
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