Mar 09, 2023

Smoke from Canada wildfires can be 'toxic' in CT, officials warn

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The sunrise in Connecticut on the morning of June 6, 2023 was obscured by smoke.

A firefighter directs water on a grass fire on an acreage behind a residential property in Kamloops, British Columbia, Monday, June 5, 2023. The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection issued an air quality alert for the state Tuesday, warning of unhealthy levels, due to smoke from wildfires over Quebec.

Smoke from Canadian wildfires is again affecting Connecticut's air quality, making it unhealthy for sensitive groups this week, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection warned.

In its daily air quality index forecast, DEEP said it is expecting smoke from the Quebec fires to elevate fine particulate matter, or very tiny particles of either solid matter or liquid droplets, to levels that are unhealthy for sensitive groups.

DEEP issued an air quality alert for Tuesday and Wednesday, the National Weather Service said.

"Chemicals in and on particulates can also be toxic," DEEP said. "Very fine particulates can be inhaled deeply into the lungs."

The smoke and haze is easier to see in this loop...

In southern Connecticut, the NWS said the air quality alert would remain in effect through Wednesday night.

"Levels of fine particulates will rise into unhealthy for sensitive groups category statewide today and Wednesday and likely last into the evening hours both days due to wildfire smoke transport from eastern Canadian wildfires," the weather service said.

For northern Connecticut, the NWS said the alert would remain in effect through Tuesday night.

The smoke has covered the sky in a thick blanket and is moving south, while the sun has an orange and red hue.

Smoke from Canadian wildfires is again affecting Connecticut's air quality and made the sun appear reddish in Stamford Tuesday morning.

The sun's bright color is caused by the smoke in an effect known as Mie scattering. The light from the sun bounces off of these particles, which are larger than the typical molecule in the atmosphere, making their wavelengths longer and altering the color, according to John Cristantello, a lead meteorologist with the National Weather Service's New York Office.

These colors are especially vivid when the sun is lower in the sky, Cristantello added.

The smoke is really making its presence known on the GOES-16 satellite imagery from Canadian wildfires. It created a vivid sunset last night and sunrise this morning. The graphic attached shows you why the sky changes color on smoky days. #NYwx #CTwx #NJwx

When fine particulate matter reaches unhealthy levels, "people with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children are most at risk," according to DEEP. "Particulate matter also damages paint, soils clothing and furniture, and reduces visibility."

Sensitive groups should "limit prolonged exertion," DEEP said. These particles can aggravate existing heart and lung diseases, change the body's defenses against inhaled materials, damage lung tissues and, if exposed to high levels, cause lung impairment for up to three weeks.

Fine particles are considered unhealthy for sensitive groups between 101 to 150 on the air quality index scale, meaning one cubic meter of air contains between 41 and 65 micrograms of pollutant, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Forecasted particulate matter levels for Connecticut Tuesday range from 114 to 126 on the air quality index scale, according to DEEP.

By Wednesday, DEEP said the range will be lower, ranging from 69 to 94 on the index. According to DEEP, individuals who are "unusually sensitive" to lower air quality should avoid prolonged activity or heavy exertion.