Genesee County, MI—With smoke from Canadian wildfires affecting air quality in Genesee County, officials are advising residents to reduce time spent outdoors. 

An air quality advisory issued by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) is in effect for Genesee County until noon of Friday, June 9, 2023.

“The main message is that air quality has deteriorated because of Canadian wildfires to our north and smoke traveling down on north winds,” Jim Haywood, a senior meteorologist in EGLE’s Air Quality Division, said in an email. 

Overall, the EGLE advisory noted that levels of fine particulate are expected to be unhealthy for sensitive groups, with some hours reaching the next level of concern, which is the unhealthy range. In this range, “everyone who is active outdoors may experience effects. Members of sensitive groups are likely to experience more serious effects,” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states.

Those in sensitive groups include individuals with asthma, heart or lung conditions and older adults, Haywood said. He advised them to limit strenuous outdoor activities. If that’s unavoidable, he recommended wearing high-quality masks, such as N95 masks.

Haywood added that “higher levels of fine particulates can survive indoors. In most cases, if you have central air conditioning, your home filtration system should weed out most of the particulates. If you don’t have central air/filtration or depend on fans and open windows, your indoor air could be just as bad as outdoor air.”

Air quality in Genesee County is expected to get worse tomorrow, according to Dr. Pamela Hackert, the medical health officer at the Genesee County Health Department.

“The changing weather pattern makes it difficult to accurately predict when the worst of the smoke will be in Genesee County and how long it will stay, but the current forecast is that Friday, June 9th will be the worst,” she said in a statement. 

Hackert advised the broader public in the county to opt for less physically taxing activities, like walking instead of running, and shortening the time they spend outdoors. 

“Even healthy adults can be affected by these high levels of particles in the air,” she said.

In Flint, the air quality index (AQI) indicates that the city has an index value of 75 as of 12 p.m. on June 8, which falls within the range of moderate level of concern. That means “there may be some health concern for a small number of unusually sensitive people,” the EPA says.

A screenshot of the Air Quality Index (AQI) that’s used to forecast daily air quality. (Image courtesy of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

The index value ranges from 0-500, with the hazardous range of 301-500 being the highest level of concern, followed by the categories of very unhealthy, unhealthy, unhealthy for sensitive groups, moderate and good. When the index reaches the hazardous range, everyone is advised to avoid all physical activities outdoors.

Roughly 75 million people across various regions of the U.S. are under air quality alerts, according to the national media outlet CNN. In Michigan, Haywood said wildfires impacting air quality in the state are between Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury, Ontario, while fires east of those areas are affecting New York and Pennsylvania in the United States. 

Haywood said that EGLE will decide on Friday morning whether to extend its alert.

“We’re hoping that a change in the weather pattern during the weekend will start improving the situation.”

Click here for the latest updates about local air quality.

Nicholas is Flint Beat’s public health and education reporter. He joins the team as he graduates from Santa Clara University, Calif. Nicholas has previously reported on dementia and brain health, as...

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