NEW YORK STATE — With a statewide air quality alert, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos said that today’s air quality was the worst in memory. …
NEW YORK STATE — As he announced a statewide air quality alert, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos said that today’s air quality was the worst in memory.
Answering a reporter’s question at a virtual press conference on Wednesday at 2 p.m., Seggos said that the smoke would be around until Saturday unless there was some unseen rain or wind change.
He added that as the fires continued to burn, the smoke would continue to migrate.
Department of Health (DOH) Commissioner Dr. James McDonald encouraged people to stay inside, and if they had to go out, to wear an N95 or KN95 mask if possible. “Wear the best mask that you have,” he said.
Masking and staying inside helps protect the body from the fine particulate matter that is in the smoke. Fine particulate matter is categorized as smaller than 2.5 microns in size, small enough to migrate into our respiratory system.
Larger particles in the air are filtered out by the fine hairs in our noses, he said. “That’s what noses do.”
Fine particulate matter can be composed of different types of particles, and often comes from processes that involve combustion (e.g. vehicle exhaust, power plants and fires) and from chemical reactions in the atmosphere, according to a DEC press release.
Exposure can cause short-term health effects such as irritation to the eyes, nose and throat; coughing; sneezing; a runny nose; and shortness of breath. Exposure to elevated levels of fine particulate matter can also worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease.
People with heart or breathing problems, and children and the elderly may be particularly sensitive to fine particulate matter.
Air quality is measured in an air quality index, with a range from 0 to 500. The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concern. For example, an AQI value of 50 or below represents good air quality, while an AQI value over 300 represents hazardous air quality. At 2 p.m. on Wednesday, June 7, the air quality in Beach Lake, PA was 347and in Narrowsburg it was 199. For a zipcode-searchable Air Quality Index tool visit www.airnow.gov.
To track the fires, visit firesmoke.ca/forecasts/current.
Additional information on ozone and fine particulate matter is available on DEC’s website and on DOH’s website. To stay up to date with announcements from DEC, sign up for air quality alerts through DEC Delivers: DEC’s Premier Email Service at www.dec.ny.gov/public/65855.html.
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