The smoke plume from the Canadian wildfires has blanketed Long Island and most of the metropolitan area, so the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation is urging New Yorkers to stay inside, close all windows, and wear masks when outdoors.
Health advisories have been issued for Long Island every day between June 5 and 8, and are expected to continue into next week. Long Islanders who are being affected by the smoky air are unlikely to see change in the next couple days.
“We are urging all New Yorkers to limit outdoor activity,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said at a June 7 news conference. “It’s unhealthy for all New Yorkers.”
Exposure to the air can cause short-term health effects like coughing, sneezing, shortness of breath, a runny nose, and irritation to the eyes, nose, or throat according to the DEC.
These can worsen the existing medical conditions of sensitive groups, such as people with asthma, lung or heart conditions, pregnant people, kids and teens, or elderly people. However, anyone can experience negative effects of exposure to low air quality.
“If you’ve been looking out the window the last couple of days, you can see the effects of the Canadian wildfires,” Dr. James McDonald, the acting Commissioner of the state’s Department of Health said at the news conference. “If you’re out walking and all of a sudden you’re coughing, you’re feeling short of breath, that’s a signal. When your body speaks to you, you want to listen to your body.”
McDonald says that people experiencing this should move indoors. Air conditioning may also help, but should be on the re-circulate setting to avoid bringing smoke into the home, according to the American Lung Association. McDonald also urges people, especially those in communities with high Air Quality Index ratings, to wear a mask when outside.
“It’s certainly the worst in memory by far,” Seggos said of New York’s current air quality. “It certainly is unprecedented.”
New Yorkers are also advised to limit campfires, barbecues or any kind of outdoor burning.
“Not only are you potentially exacerbating local air quality issues, but this is a very dry state,” Seggos said. “We’re looking at a prolonged period of dryness, which gives rise to fire conditions here in New York.”
Rain is forecast next week and will hopefully “diminish the presence of smoke off of the fires,” Seggos said. Long Islanders can hope that next week’s rain may bring some relief from the smoke, but in the meantime: stay inside and stay safe.
To find out the Air Quality Index near you, go to airnow.gov.