Smoke caused by more than 200 out-of-control wildfires in Canada is producing unhealthy and even hazardous levels of air pollution throughout North America.

The smoke is spreading throughout much of the United States, especially the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, and parts of the Southeast. The National Weather Service has described parts of the country as looking like Mars, shrouded in an orange haze that blocks the sunlight and sends temperatures to unexpected lows.

Areas in the northern United States have been most dramatically affected, with New York City briefly ranked by as the most polluted major city in the world and Detroit in the No. 2 spot. “But the smoke and associated pollutants from fires in Northern Quebec are impacting as far south as Charlotte, North Carolina, and even farther because of the wind patterns,” says Rebecca Saari, PhD, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. “So you’re seeing air quality at unhealthy levels in many areas.”

Wildfires not only leave a trail of physical destruction in their immediate path, they also create a wave of health problems as harmful particulate matter and toxic gasses are carried through the air.

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