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Western Wildfires Cause Air Quality Hazards Across New York

Air Quality Hazards Web

VESTAL, NY (WSKG)—For weeks, New York has experienced air quality issues caused by wildfires in the west. Smoke plumes from wildfires carried by the wind have caused haze and particles in the air throughout the northeast.

Some experts say as long as wildfires continue to be an issue, states like New York could see air quality problems more often, and for longer. The more often this happens, the higher the risk to the health of residents.

“We’re going to be under this threat for the entire summer, fall and winter,” said Mark Wysocki, a senior lecturer in meteorology at Cornell University. “The fires aren’t going to go away, and the jet stream isn’t going to change, so we could even see days like this in August, or in October.”

When trees burn, chemicals are released from the heated sap into the atmosphere, along with tiny particles of soot.

“Because they’re small, they’re able to get through your nose and your mouth down deep into your lung and they attach themselves to the lung,” said Wysocki. “And that reduces your ability to breathe.”

According to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, exposure to these particles can cause coughing, sneezing, and shortness of breath. Poor air quality can also worsen asthma and heart disease. Those especially vulnerable, such as elderly people, children, or anyone with pre-existing conditions, should take precaution.

Wysocki said that to see the air quality and pollution levels in their area, residents should check the Air Quality Index (AQI).

If an area is labeled yellow or orange on the AQI map, vulnerable people should stay indoors and avoid strenuous activities like exercise until the air has cleared. If the location is red, or hazardous, all residents should take precautions.