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Widespread smoke prompts special air quality statement for Windsor-Essex

Lingering smoke from various wildfires across the country has worsened Windsor’s air quality health index to eight.

Environment Canada and Climate Change issued a special air quality statement for the region Wednesday morning.

It said high levels of air pollution have developed due to smoke from forest fires and that smoke plumes from fires in Quebec and northeastern Ontario have resulted in deteriorated air quality.

The agency said poor air quality will persist into the weekend and urges people to reduce or reschedule strenuous activities outdoors, saying children and the elderly should also take it easy.

Both the public and catholic school boards in Windsor-Essex have shared the air quality advisory with all principals, cautioning them about strenuous outdoor activity, advising to stop any outdoor activities if someone in their care experiences shortness of breath, wheezing, severe coughing, dizziness or chest pains.'

Sunset in Windsor, Ont., on Monday, June , 2023. (Source: Lira Sykja Okaj)

Conditions may vary

Environment and Climate Change Canada warning preparedness meteorologist Trudy Kidd said when it comes to forest fire smoke, conditions can be variable hour to hour.

“If you have a break in air quality and it improves and you're comfortable with it, then you can go outside,” said Kidd. “But just know that if it spikes and you're smelling smoke, any amount of wildfire smoke can be hazardous for your health.”

Kidd explained widespread smoke warnings are not common in Windsor-Essex, suggesting this may be a new experience for many. Kidd told CTV News the special air quality statement contains a link that can also be used guide for people in taking care of stress, anxiety and depression.

“I think it's also important to check on your loved ones,” Kidd said. “Check on your friends and family and your neighbours. Make sure they're doing okay, make sure they have what they need. Make sure they're able to take care of themselves and make good choices for their own bodies.”

Kidd added, “To get better air quality, we need a change in the wind direction so that our source is from a less polluted place. It looks like we'll get our breath of fresh air this weekend when a low pressure system enters Southern Ontario. I think we're looking at Saturday for Windsor so fingers crossed.”

WECHU statement

Dr. Mehdi Aloosh, medical officer of health for the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, issued a statement on Wednesday:

“With Environment Canada issuing a Special Air Quality Statement for our region due to smoke from wildfires, I want to remind residents of Windsor and Essex County that wildfire smoke can be harmful to everyone’s health, even at low concentrations,” he said.

WECHU is recommending that individuals continue to take action to reduce the risk of exposure to wildfire smoke:

  • People with lung disease (such as asthma) or heart disease, older adults, children, pregnant people, and people who work outdoors are at higher risk of experiencing health effects caused by wildfire smoke.
  • Stop outdoor activities and contact your health care provider if you or someone in your care experiences shortness of breath, wheezing (including asthma attacks), severe cough, dizziness, or chest pains.
  • Keep indoor air clean by keeping doors and windows closed.
  • Consider using a well-fitted respirator type mask if you are required to work or spend long periods of time outdoors.
  • If you have an HVAC system in your home, use the highest rated MERV filter for your system.
  • Use an air purifier if available, in rooms in which you spend a lot of time (avoid air purifiers that produce ozone).
  • If necessary, take a break from exposure to smoke by temporarily relocating or finding a community location with clean, cool air such as a library, shopping mall, or community centre.
  • Be aware of your mental health. If you experience any feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression, contact your mental health care provider for advice or visit
  • Be sure to check on friends and family members, especially those who may be more susceptible to smoke.

WECHU says it will continue to work with provincial partners to monitor our local air quality and will communicate any changes to these recommendations as the situation dictates. Top Stories

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