On Wednesday, a murky, deep, thick, putrid, orange haze hung over Newark, and most of New Jersey as out-of-control wildfires rage more than 400 miles away in Canada plague the metro area.
Most of the Garden State remained under a Code Red Air Quality Alert issued by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) due to dangerous and toxic smoke levels. For example, on Wednesday afternoon, the air quality index (AQI) topped 300 in Newark and several surrounding cities. According to information from the NJDEP, an AQI rating of 300 or more is considered polluted, dangerous, and unhealthy.
Gov. Phil Murphy said officials from the NJDEP are closely monitoring the air quality levels. “As conditions worsen statewide, I strongly urge all sensitive individuals–including those with heart or lung disease, the elderly, and the young to stay safe and limit the amount of time active outdoors today,” Murphy said. The governor also encouraged anyone that has to be outside for extended periods to wear a KN-95 mask.
As air quality worsens across the state, everyone should take commonsense precautions to protect themselves against negative health effects.— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) June 7, 2023
Stay inside, stay safe, and continue to monitor @NewJerseyDEP for air quality updates. pic.twitter.com/4MEM73QWEt
In a statement to the local media, physicians said poor air quality could trigger shortness of breath and other respiratory ailments in otherwise healthy individuals. “The smoke is traveling, and it makes the air quality worse, and it contains more particulate matter, too,” said Dr. Lisa Casale, a critical care physician at Hackensack Meridian Health/JFK University Medical Center in Edison.
According to data from the EPA, the health effects of wildfire smoke are similar to that of other air pollutants such as car exhaust fumes, heavy pollen extractions, chemical waste emissions, and smog. For example, poor and hazardous air quality can irritate or exacerbate existing ailments, such as pulmonary people with respiratory conditions such as asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), or lung cancer.
Check the air quality in your area today!— Readygov (@Readygov) June 7, 2023
Smoke from wildfires can be harmful to your health.
People with chronic diseases, children, pregnant people, and people over 65 are more vulnerable to health effects from smoke exposure.
Info from @CDCgov: https://t.co/MfsfT8ohq7 pic.twitter.com/7S6eXcVFYi
In South Jersey, an intense wildfire that started on Tuesday burned about 70 acres before it was contained on Wednesday. The fire, its aftermath, and the smoke from the Canadian wildfires added to the state’s overall poor and hazardous air quality. “The heavy smoke and stagnant air make it hard to see and breathe,” said Vicky Fedor, a dental hygienist in Jackson, NJ. Fedor said she felt nauseous and limited her time outside.
Lastly, many state offices closed early on Wednesday, and several school districts canceled after-school activities on Wednesday and Thursday. As of Wednesday evening, local hospitals have not reported an increase in Emergency Room (ER) or admissions due to the statewide hazardous air quality.
“I drove up from South Jersey to witness and document the large plume of smoke that was forecast to consume the area on Wednesday (June 7, 2023). I experienced the dark orange skies as I approached Newark, which is where I started documenting. I made my way into Manhattan to get an aerial view of the city from Top of the Rock, then to RedHook Brooklyn to catch the sunset. It was a truly wild experience and I hope this doesn’t become a normal phenomenon.” – Anthony Quintano, Multimedia Journalist