Canada wildfire smoke poses health risks in the U.S.

Smoke billows and fills the sky above mountains and trees

May 28, 2024 – Wildfire smoke from Canada has been traveling to the Midwestern U.S., causing air pollution both outdoors and indoors, according to experts.

In mid-May, the smoke had reached Midwestern states including Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa, leading some counties to issue air quality alerts and warn residents to stay inside. However, wildfire smoke seeps inside buildings to cause indoor pollution, said Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in a May 14 Inside Climate News article. Because people spend around 90% of their time indoors, they can be exposed to harmful smoke and its potential health risks, including cardiovascular issues and asthma flare-ups.

“The thing I’m trying to drive home is that outdoor air pollution is not just an outdoor problem,” Allen said. “All of this penetrates inside the places where we live and work and go to school. And so we have to start thinking of buildings as a key component of climate resiliency.”

Experts quoted in the article recommended strategies to filter air indoors, such as using a portable air cleaner with a HEPA filter.

Read the Inside Climate News article: Canadian Wildfire Smoke Is Triggering Outdoor Air Quality Alerts Across the Midwestern U.S. It Could Pollute the Indoors, Too

– Jay Lau

Photo: iStock/James_Gabbert