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Smoke from Canadian wildfires continues to impact air quality in New England

A map showing how smoke from wildfires in Canada was impacting the eastern portion of the United States.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
A map showing how smoke from wildfires in Canada was impacting the eastern portion of the United States.

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Smoke from Canadian wildfires continued to impact air quality in New England Wednesday. And some medical experts are urging people to take steps to protect themselves.

Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield says it has seen a recent uptick in respiratory illness cases in its emergency room, but several other hospitals in western Massachusetts said Wednesday that has not been the case, including at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, Mercy Medical Center in Springfield and Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington.

Dr. James Mazo is the regional executive director for occupational health and safety with Trinity Health of New England, which Mercy Medical Center in Springfield is a part of. He said the very young, the very old and people with health conditions should consider staying inside right now. He also said those venturing out should monitor their own health.

"You may notice that your chest might feel a little bit heavy. You might have some irritation and you may have a slight cough that's unusual for you. So, those are signs that you should really go inside and take it easy," he said.

So, given the poor air quality, what should the generally consider before going outside?

"I think anything that requires exertion could be something you might want to think about before going out," said Sarah McKeown, the nursing director for the emergency department and ambulatory services at Cooley Dickinson Hospital. "Long runs, exercise, things like that. Moderation is probably okay."

And Mazo said N-95 masks, a familiar tool against COVID, could also provide protection from the smoke.

On Wednesday, Massachusetts state environmental officials issued a statewide air quality alert through midnight. In a press release, the state’s department of environmental protection said air quality was expected to be unhealthy for “sensitive groups” such as those with heart or lung disease, such as asthma.

The Canadian Press reported in the province of Quebec, some 40 forest fires and a total of 150 fires were burning as of Wednesday afternoon.

Adam joined NEPM as a freelance reporter and fill-in operations assistant during the summer of 2011. For more than 15 years, Adam has had a number stops throughout his broadcast career, including as a news reporter and anchor, sports host and play-by-play announcer as well as a producer and technician.
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