Skip to main content

Smoke from Canadian wildfires reduces regional air quality; may cause adverse health effects

People most vulnerable to air pollution – young children, older adults, individuals with heart and lung conditions – should take sensible precautions to reduce exposure to outside air

Wind currents are directing Canadian wildfire smoke to Western New York and Erie County, causing hazy skies and, in some locations, noticeable smoky odors.

Larger particles in polluted air – smoke, soot, dust – can irritate your eyes, nose, throat and lungs as the body tries to filter out and keep those particles out of your respiratory system. Pollution, like what we see this week, also contains fine, smaller particles – which can get into your lungs and bloodstream and affect your health.

Everyone can be vulnerable to negative health effects of poor air quality, but the people who are most vulnerable are:

  • Older adults
  • Babies, children and teens, especially those with asthma; asthma is a common lung condition.
  • Smokers – their lung capacity and health is already reduced.
  • People with heart or lung diseases (COPD, asthma, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease)
  • Pregnant people

If you have heart disease or other cardiac conditions, breathing in particle pollution can cause serious problems like a heart attack. Symptoms can include:

  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Feeling out of breath
  • Being more tired than usual

If you have any of these signs, contact your doctor. Be sure to let your doctor know if the symptoms get worse or last longer than usual.

Preventing and reducing exposure to polluted air is key. Though outdoor air is generally impossible to avoid completely, limiting the amount of time you spend outside breathing the polluted air is recommended.

If you have to go outside for an extended period of time, a well-fitted N95 mask can filter out some particles in polluted air. People who wear N95 masks when outside should avoid strenuous activity. Reducing exposure to polluted outdoor air is the best way to avoid negative health effects.

  • Spend more time indoors, where particle pollution levels are usually lower. This could mean taking a break from outdoor activities like sports or home and lawn maintenance.
  • If you choose to exercise outdoors, choose easier activities (like walking instead of running) so you don’t breathe as hard.
  • Use common sense. Check on neighbors and family members.
  • Follow burn bans and use safety measures with campfires and other outdoor activities – especially as we come up to fireworks season. Have a fire extinguisher and/or buckets of water nearby and accessible. 
  • Consider air filters and use as directed. When the outdoor air is smoky and pollutant levels are high, do not rely on ventilation to bring outdoor air indoors. Close up windows and doors. Close fireplace dampers. Turn off ventilation systems.
  • Think about your pets too – they’re breathing in the same, smoky outdoor air. Consider limiting their time outdoors.

# – visual maps of current air quality/particulate counts. Updated regularly.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation – Today’s Air Quality Index (AQI) Forecast -

New York State – Canadian wildfires impacting state’s air quality:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Particulate Pollution -