Canadian wildfire smoke updates: New York City tops list of world’s worst air quality rankings


(NEW YORK) — Hazy and dangerous fumes from ongoing wildfires in Canada have engulfed the skies over much of the Northeast, prompting serious air quality alerts in at least 16 states.

Canadian officials said firefighters are scrambling to put out the blazes. So far this wildfire season, Canada has seen more than 8.7 million acres burned — an area larger than the state of Vermont.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Jun 07, 10:56 PM EDT
Biden speaks to Trudeau about wildfires: White House

President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke Wednesday about the wildfires in Canada, the White House said.

Biden offered additional assistance and also discussed the health impact of the fires, according to the White House.

“To date, the United States has deployed more than 600 U.S. firefighters and support personnel, and other firefighting assets to respond to the fires,” the White House said in a statement.

Trudeau also tweeted that “hundreds” of American firefighters have arrived in Canada, “and more are on the way.”

Jun 07, 9:27 PM EDT
Hamilton and other Broadway shows canceled over health concerns

A number of shows on Broadway were canceled over health concerns of the actors, in the wake of the wildfire smoke blanketing NYC.

Shakespeare in the Park, which is performed outside, was canceled, as well as Hamilton and Camelot.

Jun 07, 8:14 PM EDT
New York City’s ‘smoke wave’ response time for warnings criticized

As New York City was bombarded with dangerous air and smoke that turned the skyline orange, some residents and environmental experts questioned if the city’s leader acted quickly enough to warn people about the dangers of the “smoke wave.”

The city’s Office of Emergency Management issued warnings on its social media pages and city alert system starting Tuesday afternoon and Mayor Eric Adams put out a news release about the dangerous air quality around 11:30 p.m.

Some environmentalists said the late notice was unacceptable given that the city’s environment was already showing poor visibility and unhealthy air earlier in the morning.

Click here to learn more.

-ABC News’ Ivan Pereira

Jun 07, 7:21 PM EDT
When to expect air quality to improve in the US amid Canadian wildfires

The wind conditions that are bringing plumes of smoke south are expected to last for several more days, experts say, as some fires in Canada continue to burn out of control.

The smoke is primarily from several wildfires burning in Quebec that is being blown south in a narrow band by an intense storm system around Nova Scotia that has not moved in several days, according to Mark Wysocki, an air pollution meteorologist who teaches at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

-ABC News’ Meredith Deliso

Jun 07, 7:01 PM EDT
What to know about the Air Quality Index from wildfire smoke and how it affects human health

Wildfire smoke contains fine particulate matter, known as PM2.5, which are microscopic solid or liquid droplets — often 30 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair — that can be inhaled and cause serious health problems, according to the EPA.

PM2.5 is considered unhealthy for “Code Orange” and sensitive groups once the Air Quality Index surpasses 100, according to AirNow, a website that publishes air quality data. Once the AQI surpasses 150, it is considered “Code Red,” unhealthy for some members of the general public who may experience health effects, with sensitive groups experiencing more severe effects.

-ABC News’ Julia Jacobo

Jun 07, 6:44 PM EDT
NYC air quality deteriorates to new record level: Mayor

New York City Mayor Eric Adams updated residents on the current situation with the dangerous air quality due to the Canadian wildfires.

He said the city’s Air Quality Index, or AQI, hit 484, the highest level on record, on Wednesday afternoon. Anything above 300 is considered hazardous, according to Zachary Iscol, the commissioner for the city’s Office of Emergency Management.

“Tomorrow things may improve but an AQI over 150 is still considered dangerous,” he told reporters.

Adams said all outdoor events in the city were canceled Thursday and urged private groups to do the same.

A person wears a face mask as smoke from Canadian wildfires blankets New York, June 7, 2023.
“The best thing is that [people] remain indoors,” the mayor said.

He reiterated advisories to close windows and to wear a mask if anyone has to travel outside.

Schools were already planned to be closed Thursday, and no decision has been made about the rest of the week, according to the mayor.

Adams said the current forecast shows the situation should improve at the end of the week but warned that the situation can change.

“It is difficult to predict the movement of the smoke,” he said.

Jun 07, 6:31 PM EDT
New York to distribute 1 million N95 masks Thursday, governor says

One million N95 masks will be made available for people at state sites in New York on Thursday, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced on Wednesday.

Officials will distribute 400,000 masks at MTA stations, the Port Authority Bus Terminal, state parks and the Javits Center, Hochul said.

Approximately 600,000 masks will be available from NYS Div. of Homeland Security & Emergency Services, the governor said.

Hochul has urged New Yorkers to stay inside due to smoke from the Canadian wildfires.

Jun 07, 4:35 PM EDT
MLB games postponed in NYC, Philadelphia

The MLB has postponed Wednesday night’s games between the White Sox and the Yankees, set to take place in New York City, and between the Tigers and Phillies, set for Philadelphia.

The Phillies-Tigers game was moved to Thursday and the Yankees and White Sox will play a doubleheader on Thursday.

The WNBA said Wednesday night’s game between the Minnesota Lynx and New York Liberty, which was to take place in New York City, has been postponed due to the air quality.

Jun 07, 4:13 PM EDT
The forecast

More smoke is expected in the Northeast for the next few days.

The thickest smoke will drift south Wednesday afternoon and is forecast to envelop Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., Wednesday night and Thursday. These cities may see AQI levels reach the most severe “hazardous” level over the next 24 hours.

On Thursday afternoon, another round of smoke is expected to move over Lake Superior and into Cleveland, Ohio; Erie, Pennsylvania; and Buffalo, New York.

-ABC News’ Dan Amarante

Jun 07, 3:55 PM EDT
Why the poor air quality could cause a host of symptoms — even in healthy people

Exposure to concentrated amounts of fine particulate matter can cause both short-term effects such as irritation of the eyes, nose and throat; coughing, sneezing; and shortness of breath, and long-term effects such as worsening asthma and heart disease, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Fine particles are able to enter the body through the eyes and lungs. Not everyone feels the same symptoms, and the pollution can exacerbate existing health issues, such as asthma and allergies, Peter DeCarlo, associate professor of environmental health and engineering, told ABC News.

Click here to learn more.

-ABC News’ Julia Jacobo

Jun 07, 2:55 PM EDT
New York City tops list of world’s worst air quality rankings

New York City is topping the list of the world’s worst air quality rankings by a landslide, according to IQ Air, which monitors air quality worldwide.

New York City reached 392 on the AQI Wednesday afternoon, which is in the worst category — hazardous — on the U.S. government’s air quality tracker. Wednesday shattered New York City’s record for the highest AQI since records began in 1999.

Dubai and Delhi came in at No. 2 and No. 3 in the world with 168 and 164, respectively.

Jun 07, 3:34 PM EDT
New Jersey closes state offices early

New Jersey’s state offices closed early Wednesday as the air conditions worsened, Gov. Phil Murphy announced.

The governor has urged residents to limit their time outside.

Jun 07, 2:11 PM EDT
NY issues another Air Quality Health Advisory for Thursday

New York state officials have issued another Air Quality Health Advisory for Thursday for the entire state with the exception of the Adirondacks.

Jun 07, 1:47 PM EDT
How to stay safe from wildfire smoke

The most effective way to protect yourself during wildfire emergencies is to stay indoors or limit time outdoors when there is smoke in the air, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is especially important for those with heart or lung conditions who are at higher risk for adverse health effects.

If you can, try to avoid exercising outdoors until the air quality improves, especially those with underlying lung disease.

“People with asthma and people who already have lung disease or underlying lung problems, it can exacerbate that, it can irritate that. And if the air quality is bad enough, it can even cause some symptoms of feeling unwell and respiratory symptoms in people who are healthy,” said Dr. Stephanie Widmer, a member of ABC News’ Medical Unit.

Pregnant people should also try to avoid spending time outdoors, especially those who are further along, Widmer said.

You should wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth, fits tightly to your face and can filter out smoke or ash particles before you breathe them in, according to the CDC. N95 or P100 masks can help protect your lungs from smoke or ash.

-ABC News’ Nadine El-Bawab and Youri Benadjaoud

Jun 07, 1:06 PM EDT
FAA slows NYC air traffic due to low visibility

Due to low visibility, the Federal Aviation Administration has slowed flight traffic in and out of New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport and New York City’s LaGuardia Airport.

A ground stop is in effect at LaGuardia, meaning some flights are being held at their origin airport to ease congestion.

The average delay at Newark is about 84 minutes.

-ABC News’ Sam Sweeney

Jun 07, 11:32 AM EDT
Worst air quality yet may be headed to NYC

The worst air in the U.S. Wednesday morning is in upstate New York from Syracuse to Binghamton, where the air quality has reached the worst level — “hazardous.”

That air will move toward New York City and Philadelphia on Wednesday afternoon and evening.

Tuesday brought the worst air quality to New York City since the 1960s, officials said, with New York City Mayor Eric Adams calling it an “unprecedented event.”

The mayor urged New Yorkers to avoid going outside if they can.

Adams warned Wednesday, “Air quality conditions are anticipated to temporarily improve later tonight through tomorrow morning, but they are expected to deteriorate further tomorrow afternoon and evening.”

-ABC News’ Max Golembo

Jun 07, 10:19 AM EDT
Poor air quality will last into weekend for Toronto

In Toronto, the poor air quality will last into the weekend, officials warned Wednesday.

“Air quality and visibility due to wildfire smoke can fluctuate over short distances and can vary considerably from hour to hour,” officials said in a “Special Air Quality Statement.” “Wildfire smoke can be harmful to everyone’s health even at low concentrations. Continue to take actions to protect your health and reduce exposure to smoke.”

Jun 07, 9:32 AM EDT
NYC, DC public schools cancel all outdoor activities

Washington, D.C., public schools have canceled all outdoor activities, including athletic games, for Wednesday due to the poor air quality.

A “Code RED Air Quality Alert” has been issued for the nation’s capital.

New York City public schools also canceled outdoor activities.

“We urge everyone to reduce prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors,” NYC Public Schools tweeted.

Jun 07, 8:22 AM EDT
Long Island school district keeping students inside

In Port Washington, New York, on Long Island, the superintendent announced Wednesday that all students will stay inside during physical education and recess.

“This decision is aimed at minimizing exposure to the poor air quality and ensuring a safe learning environment for everyone,” the superintendent said.

Jun 07, 6:37 AM EDT
Air quality alerts issued for 13 states

Most of New England and much of the East Coast were under air quality alerts on Wednesday, with smoke from Canadian wildfires expected to reach as far south as South Carolina.

A new dose of very thick smoke was expected to drift into New York City and Philadelphia by Wednesday afternoon, lasting into the evening.

That smoke is then expected to move south into Washington, D.C., on Wednesday night and into Thursday morning.

Conditions around New York City and in the I-95 corridor could improve Thursday evening, but get worse in western New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, as the winds shift.

Jun 07, 12:49 AM EDT
NYC mayor says air quality expected to ‘deteriorate further’ Wednesday

The air quality in New York City worsened Tuesday evening and is expected to “deteriorate further” Wednesday afternoon and evening, New York City Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement.

“At this point, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has issued an Air Quality Health Advisory for all five boroughs. While conditions are anticipated to temporarily improve later tonight through tomorrow morning, they are expected to deteriorate further tomorrow afternoon and evening,” Adams said.

“Currently, we are taking precautions out of an abundance of caution to protect New Yorkers’ health until we are able to get a better sense of future air quality reports,” he said.

Adams said students should still go to school on Wednesday, but New York City public schools won’t have outdoor activities.

“These recommendations may change based on updated air quality conditions that come in, but, in the meantime, we recommend all New Yorkers to take the precautions they see fit to protect their health,” he added.

Jun 06, 10:09 PM EDT
Smoke from wildfires visible over Yankee Stadium

Smoke from wildfires from Canada was visible on Tuesday night over Yankee Stadium in The Bronx, as the Yankees played the White Sox, video obtained by ABC News shows.

Wildfires burning in Canada are continuing to create poor air quality conditions in parts of the U.S., with smoke clearly visible during Tuesday night’s Yankees-White Sox game in The Bronx.

— ABC News (@ABC) June 7, 2023

Jun 06, 10:01 PM EDT
New York City currently has the worst air quality in the world, data shows

New York City currently has the worst air quality than any other city on Earth, as smoke stemming from wildfires in Canada makes its way across the Northeast, according to the latest data from Swiss technology company IQAir.

The air quality index in NYC is at 196 as of Tuesday evening, followed by Doha, Qatar, and Delhi, India.

The next U.S. city on the list is Detroit, which currently places eighth, according to IQAir. Toronto, Canada, sat in ninth place as of Tuesday night.

Jun 06, 11:00 PM EDT
Who is at most risk from unhealthy air

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has specific guidance for vulnerable groups if the air quality in their area is deemed “unhealthy.”

While the agency warns that all people will experience adverse side effects from exposure to the unhealthy air, it said those with heart or lung disease, pregnant people, children and the elderly are most sensitive.

Those groups should consider moving all of their activities indoors until the air quality alert is lifted, the EPA said.

Jun 06, 11:02 PM EDT
Northeast covered in haze as forecasters warn of more smoke to come

Millions of people in New York City and other locations in the Northeast scrambled to keep themselves free of the smoky air throughout the day and evening Tuesday.

The city’s skyline was barely visible for most parts of the day, and the smell of the smoke was strong as commuters hit the evening rush.

Large cities with the lowest air quality include New York City; Albany, New York and Cincinnati, a map by Airnow, a website that publishes air quality data, shows.

Another large and dense plume of smoke will be moving down across parts of the Northeast on Wednesday, according to forecasters.

That batch of very dense smoke will push down across the Northeast throughout the day on Wednesday, giving some relief to New England and the Midwest.

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