Smoke from hundreds of wildfires burning across Canada has drifted into the United States, causing poor air quality and health concerns for millions of people. The smoke has affected states from New England to the Southeast and as far west as Minnesota. More than 100 million Americans were under air quality alerts on Wednesday, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Canadian fires have been raging for weeks, fueled by hot and dry conditions that experts link to climate change. The fires have scorched more than 9.8 million acres of forest, more than 10 times the area that had burned by this time last year. The fires have also displaced tens of thousands of people and destroyed homes and businesses.
The smoke from the fires has reduced visibility, created a hazy sky and an odor of burning wood, and turned the sun an ashen orange in some places. The smoke contains fine particles that can irritate the eyes, nose and throat, and worsen respiratory and cardiovascular problems. People with asthma, allergies, heart disease or lung disease are especially vulnerable to the effects of smoke.
To protect their health, people are advised to limit their outdoor activities, especially during times when the air quality is poor. They should also check local air quality reports and follow the guidance of health officials. Some people may choose to wear masks or respirators to filter out some of the smoke particles.
The poor air quality has also disrupted travel and sports events in some areas. Flights at major airports were delayed or canceled due to low visibility. Major League Baseball postponed games in New York and Philadelphia due to the unhealthy air. Schools canceled field trips and some closed for the day.
The smoke is expected to linger for a few more days in some areas, depending on the weather and wind patterns. Officials are monitoring the situation closely and providing updates to the public.