Air quality in Detroit has been negatively impacted by the Canadian wildfires, resulting in a layer of haze and smoke around multiple cities in the Midwest. Detroit is currently under an air quality alert through Thursday, June 29, with more predicted smoke on the way.
According to Air Now, an air quality data website, the Air Quality Index (AQI) becomes unhealthy when it passes 100. AQI is divided into six categories and can be visualized as a scale from 0-500. As of June 28, 2023, the Midwest takes three of the top 5 spots for worst air quality globally. Currently, the metro Detroit area is sitting at an AQI between 165-180, rendered unhealthy.
The main pollutant in the air is PM2.5 – fine particle matter causing the sky to appear hazy and, in some areas, reduce visibility. PM2.5 can spread due to an increase in smoke and can travel far. In the case of the Midwest’s air quality decrease, PM2.5 was raised by the influx of smoke from the Canadian wildfires.
While the air quality warning applies to all citizens, groups sensitive to pollution – such as adults 65 years or older, adults or children with lung or heart conditions, pregnant people, people with asthma, or any other pre-existing health condition – are at the highest risk, according to Chief Public Health Officer of the Detroit Health Department, Christina Floyd.
Symptoms caused by poor air quality may include difficulty breathing, throat irritation, and coughing. If symptoms worsen, seek professional medical help.
How To Protect Yourself
While there’s nothing we can do about the lingering haze and pollutants, we can help keep things from getting worse by reducing activities that can contribute to air pollution such as burning things outdoors, and minimizing the use of cars, gas-powered lawnmowers, and other vehicles.
We should also take extra precautions when we are outside to stay healthy. Here are some tips experts suggest:
Limit time outside
According to Michigan.gov, there are multiple ways to stay safe during this time – the main option being to limit time outside. Groups at risk should avoid strenuous outdoor activities and consider moving physical activity indoors or rescheduling completely.
Those not at increased risk should still aim to limit time spent outdoors and choose less intense activities.
Keep windows and doors closed
If possible, keep windows and doors closed inside your home. This will help an air purifier system clean the air inside, while also preventing any more pollutants from coming inside.
If possible, the National Weather Service suggests using an air conditioner, higher-rated air filters, or fans.
Wear a mask
If you do have to go outside, medical professionals advise you to wear a mask. Doctors say N95 and KN95 masks provide the best protection against fumes in the air due to their tighter seals. As stated by IQAir, “a mask’s seal is arguably the most important element of an effective air quality mask.” Products made from cotton, polyester, and rayon are less likely to provide protection due to gapping and an inability to tighten straps.