Forest fire smoke impacting air quality in Northwestern Ontario

Due to a number of forest fires in the region, some communities in Northwestern Ontario are experiencing
smoke in the air. An air quality advisory has been issued today for the municipalities of Red Lake and Ear Falls, said a news release from the Northwestern Health Unit.
The health unit reminds the public and individuals most at risk of harm – children, elderly, pregnant women,
people with heart or lung conditions, or persons with active and/or physical jobs – to reduce the length of time
they are exposed to the forest fire smoke and the amount of air breathed in.
Forest fire smoke is made up of a mixture of gases and very small particles that can be harmful to your health. If
developing a new or worsening cough, shortness of breath beyond what is usually experienced, chest pains,
significant weakness or fatigue, please seek medical care as soon as possible. Follow these tips to protect you
and your family:
• If it looks smoky outside, stay inside as much as possible with your windows and doors closed. If you have
room air cleaners with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, turn them on. Keep your activity level low.
• To help keep particle levels lower indoors avoid using items that ‘burn’, such as wood stoves and gas stoves
or even candles.
• If you have an air conditioner set it to ‘recirculate’ and keep it running to help filter and cool the air. If you do
not have air conditioning, if possible, try spending some time in an air conditioned place, such as a mall or
library, to cool off.
• Avoid smoking. Smoking puts even more harmful particles in your lungs and also affects the quality of air
for people around you.
• If you have asthma, use your medication as prescribed by your doctor. If you are supposed to measure your
peak flows, make sure you do so. Call your doctor or nurse if your symptoms worsen.
• If you are in your car or truck, keep the windows closed and put the air system on ‘recirculate’.
Smoke levels from forest fires may vary considerably due to fire conditions and wind directions. People who are
at higher risk should consider taking precautions when smoke conditions are light to moderate. This is usually
indicated by a smoke odour and haziness or visibility that is less than 8 km.
People who are low-risk, or in good health, should also consider taking precautions when smoke conditions are
heavy. Heavy smoke conditions exist when visibility is less than about 4 km, and is especially of concern when
these conditions last for a day or more.
For more information please contact your local health unit office to speak with a public health inspector.

Filed in: Briefs, News

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