New York City has had the worst air quality in the world as a result of smoke from wildfires permeating from Canada, but the entire Northeastern region of the United States is feeling the impact.
As Marshall Burke, a professor of environment at Stanford University, tweeted Wednesday, this "is the '[n]ear worst or worst event' in the past two decades or so, based on smoke particle data."
Virginia Tech Engineering professor Lindsey Marr, in an op-ed for The New York Times, emphasizes the importance of mitigating this air quality crisis, writing, "it's clear we should be on the precipice of a new public health movement to improve the air we breathe."
Air pollution, including wildfire smoke, causes symptoms like coughing, burning eyes, headaches and difficulty breathing in the short term. Long-term exposure to air pollution is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, worsened asthma symptoms and other chronic diseases. Furthermore, poor air quality is linked to increased absences from school and work and worse academic performance and cognitive function. There is so much to gain by providing everyone with clean air.
"As the saying goes," the professor adds, "we wouldn't accept a glass full of dirty water, and we should no longer accept a lungful of dirty air," adding, "If the(COVID-19) pandemic was whispering to us about air quality, the wildfires are screaming to us about it."
Marr notes, "The particles in wildfire smoke are about the same size as respiratory particles that carry the coronavirus, so some of the same tools we used during the pandemic also work for wildfire smoke."
She draws attention to the importance of quality indoor air as well, offering suggestions such as running portable air filtration "on high," or, Marr writes, "If you must go outdoors, wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask such as an N95 or a KN95, which are designed to filter out at least 95 percent of particles of all types."
Marr emphasizes, "As we emerge from a pandemic caused by an airborne virus to skies darkened by wildfires, we cannot return to ignorance and complacency about our air," emphasizing, Through a combination of greater public awareness, more widespread implementation of filtration and other air-cleaning technologies and government guidance, we can move into a new era of cleaner air."
Lindsey Marr's full op-ed is available at this link (subscription required).
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