On Monday, New York City‘s air quality was classified as the worst in the world after smoke from Canadian wildfires filled the skies in east coast cities.
The northeastern coast of North America has been covered with smoke from forest fires raging in northern Quebec, putting millions of people under air quality alerts from Toronto, Ontario, to Baltimore, Maryland.
As a result of the city’s officials’ advice to people to stay indoors and wear masks while outside, New York City on Wednesday became known as the smog’s epicentre.
‘We’ve been monitoring this for well over a week since the fires started in eastern Canada, and I would say over the last 24 hours it has gotten significantly worse,’ New York Governor Kathy Hochul said.
According to online tracker IQAir.com, New York City is averaging about 353 µg/m³ of fine particulate matter, or PM2.5.
This put the city far ahead of other cities across the globe suffering from air pollution. The next worst cities, Delhi, India and Dubai, UAE, had an air quality index of 168 PM2.5 on Wednesday.
On a typical day, the New York City’s air quality is usually under 50 PM2.5, which is considered ‘good’ by the air quality index.
‘The index hit 400 in parts of our state, that’s an 800% increase,’ Governor Hochul said.
The air quality in New York was considered ‘unhealthy’ on Tuesday, and moved into ‘hazardous’ quality by Wednesday afternoon.
The city declared an air quality health emergency, which was extended through Wednesday night at 11.59pm.
‘If you’re a New Yorker with heart or breathing issues, be careful when you’re outdoors today,’ New York City Mayor Eric Adams said.
The mayor also asked New Yorkers to stay inside if possible and wear a mask while outside. Additionally, all outdoor activities at New York City public schools were cancelled on Wednesday.
Health officials also warned against strenuous work and exercise outdoors while the health emergency remains in place.
‘The things you would expect to see are more asthma attacks, more heart attacks, people coming in with chest pain due to not sufficient oxygen,’ said Dr Mitchell Katz, the CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals, at a press conference with Mayor Adams.
‘The bottom line is this – if you can stay indoors, stay indoors,’ Governor Hochul said.