Read this before heading outside
By Chloe Bennett
The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued air quality alerts for Tuesday and Wednesday that do not include the Adirondacks. But people with respiratory and health concerns should take it easy while being outside as particle pollution lingers in the air from wildfires in Quebec.
Here are some questions and answers about air quality in the Adirondacks.
How long will the smoke last?
Winds carrying smoke from Canada seem to be shifting slightly and short periods of rainfall have helped decrease the concentrations of fine particulate matter. Suresh Dhaniyala, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Clarkson University, said the air can change rapidly.
“As long as the fires are on and the wind patterns are sort of favorable for transport towards us, we can be building up very quickly or things can get washed out pretty quickly,” he said.
Should I wear a mask?
Wearing a well-fitted mask can help, Gary Ginsberg, director of the New York State Department of Health, said in a press conference, but it’s possible they could trap some of the particulates.
“We would hate to see people undergoing any kind of difficult ventilation, stress type of exercise, strenuous exercise, wearing a mask,” he said. “So we don’t want to see people wearing masks and then going out and trying to mow the lawn, for example.”
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Is it safe to hike in the Adirondacks right now?
As of Wednesday afternoon, the Adirondacks region has an Air Quality Index of 105. Anything above 100 is considered unhealthy, according to Air Now. People with respiratory or heart problems should avoid strenuous activities like mountain hikes.
The AQI can change rapidly, so check AirNow.gov before heading out.
What do the different Air Quality Index (AQI) categories mean?
The Air Quality Index ranges from “good” to “hazardous.” Here’s information on the categories and how it affects people:
Do the air quality advisories include non-sensitive people, too?
The air quality advisories issued by the DEC apply to everyone, but people with respiratory and heart issues are especially at risk. The Adirondacks were not included in the DEC’s air advisory on Wednesday, though the region’s AQI exceeded 100 in the afternoon.
What is fine particulate matter and how does it affect me?
Fine particle pollution is made up of tiny bits of matter from wildfires. It can contain dust, dirt, soot and other components. Exposure can cause irritation in the lungs, eyes, nose and throat, according to the state Department of Health. Shortness of breath, coughing and a runny nose are also symptoms of particle pollution.
Is climate change causing more wildfires and smoke pollution?
Research suggests that climate change is making conditions warmer and drier in most parts of the world, causing wildfires to occur more often. Most wildfires in the U.S. happen in the West, but climate change causes unpredictable weather patterns that could increase the risk of wildfires in the Northeast.
As for smoke pollution, researchers in the Adirondacks studied increasing organic carbon in cloud water. They suspect that the growth is being caused by wildfire emissions. It’s possible that the park is experiencing an increase in smoke pollution.
What kind of outdoor burning is banned?
Outdoor burning larger than a barbecue or small campfire should be avoided, DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said Tuesday.
Should my pets stay inside?
The American Veterinary Medical Association suggests keeping your animals indoors as much as possible and watching them for abnormal symptoms.
Are wildlife affected by the smoke?
According to the DEC, wildlife are likely adapting to the poor air quality. Animals may experience similar symptoms to humans, according to the AVMA.
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