Residents of the northeastern United States breathed easier on Friday as the smoke from Canada’s fires faded after several cities were covered in noxious fog this week.
New York and Washington’s air quality has been classified as “moderate” by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
The skies turned blue again Friday morning in the US capital, but as a precautionary measure, children in the city’s public schools were still banned from spending recess time outdoors.
In New York, public schools were closed and distance learning was implemented.
Ryan Stauffer, a NASA scientist who specializes in air pollution, told AFP that air quality had improved after the winds changed direction over the fire-ridden province of Quebec.
Stauffer said the concentration of fine particles in Washington’s atmosphere Friday morning was up to 20 times lower than it was at the same time on Thursday.
Thick skies and pungent odors blanketed the region for days, with air pollution surpassing some of the world’s most polluted cities in South Asia and China.
Reduced visibility caused flight delays at many airports and masks reappeared on the streets.
About 140 wildfires were still burning in Quebec on Friday, with nearly 80 of them deemed out of control. More than 13,000 people have been displaced since early June.
Hundreds of foreign firefighters have come to Canada to help with the massive fires, many of them located in the remote boreal forests.
With nearly 900,000 hectares affected, according to official statistics, Quebec is entering an unprecedented wildfire season.
“New York City’s air quality has improved, but it may still be unhealthy for some people,” the New York State Department of Health and Mental Health said.
“Air quality is expected to improve over the weekend, but that could change.”
Shocked by the smog, the UN secretary-general, environmental groups and US politicians this week stressed the need to fight climate change, which makes fires more dangerous.
The mayors of New York, Montreal, Toronto, Washington and Philadelphia issued a joint statement on Friday, saying, “This disturbing development serves as a stark reminder of the detrimental impact the climate crisis is having on cities around the world. It’s happening,’ he said.
“If we do not significantly reduce our use of fossil fuels to at least halve our emissions by 2030, we will likely be sentenced to a future with weeks like this.”
On Thursday, more than 111 million people in the United States had air pollution alerts due to fires. Smoke from wildfires in Canada was also detected thousands of miles away in Norway.
https://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/toxic-smoke-dissipates-over-northeastern-us/news-story/1fd183c1443b9e95dfb5fdc993a8a0b1 Toxic Smoke Dissipates in Northeastern US