Smoke from fires in northern Quebec has blanketed Montreal again, leading to poor air quality five to six times worse than at the beginning of June, according to a Montreal Public Health medical director.
Environment Canada reported that the air quality health index (AQHI) for Montreal was 10+ on Sunday, which equates to a “very high risk” level. It went back to nine on Monday, which equates to a “high health risk”.
Smoke from wildfires releases fine particles into the air that can get into people’s lungs and make breathing difficult. Inhaling these particles can cause chest pain, headaches and a general feeling of being unwell.
David Kaiser, a medical director at Montreal Public Health, said in an interview that people with heart and lung conditions are particularly vulnerable, but with so much smoke and pollution in the air, anyone could feel the effects.
“So if you went for a jog yesterday morning or this morning, you might get some chest tightness, some shortness of breath. That’s a sign that should probably stop, go in, take a break, because like I said, at these levels you can anyone can start to get those effects,” Kaiser said.
Stay indoors, wear a face mask
Kaiser recommends that people stay indoors with doors and windows closed and turn on air conditioning if possible. Avoiding exposure is key, he says.
Environment Canada recommends using an air purifier with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter inside and wearing a properly fitted respirator outside.
It also recommends checking people who may be more vulnerable to smoking.
People should be aware of their mental health, as it’s normal to feel anxious or isolated during a smoking event, says Environment Canada.
Rain and thunderstorms predicted
Montreal expects showers and thunderstorms on Monday and Tuesday, with precipitation expected to be about 20 to 40 millimeters.
The rain can help expel the fine particles and improve air quality. Environment Canada says Montreal’s AQHI should fall to two on Tuesday, representing a “low health risk”.