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Health, Science & Environment

Central Ohio air quality is improving, but problematic for some due to Canadian wildfires

A hazy sunrise along the Cincinnati riverfront on Thursday, June 8, 2023. Ohio is under an air quality alert due to smoke and particulates from wildfires in Canada.
Bill Rinehart
A hazy sunrise along the Cincinnati riverfront on Thursday, June 8, 2023. Ohio is under an air quality alert due to smoke and particulates from wildfires in Canada.

Updated: June 9, 2023, 9:04 AM ET

Ohio, like many parts of the Midwest, the Northeast and mid-Atlantic U.S., has been dealing with poor air quality in recent days due to wildfires in Canada. Wednesday, the Ohio EPA issued a statewide air quality advisory that said particulate levels in the Buckeye State are expected to be elevated through Thursday.

Central Ohio's air is expected to improve Friday. The federal government's air monitoring website currently lists Columbus' air quality as "moderate" for "unhealthy for sensitive groups" because of wild fire smoke from Canada, but says the air here should improve Friday and Saturday to the "moderate" category.

Ohio residents need to be aware of possible health effects due to the poor air quality, said Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff.

“Exposure to smoke can cause health problems for anyone, but certain groups are more at risk than others,” Vanderhoff said. “These include people with chronic heart or lung disease, children, the elderly and pregnant women. It is important to take precautions until our air quality improves."

Smoke from wildfires contains particulates that can be inhaled into your lungs and cause irritation of the eyes, nose or throat, coughing, shortness of breath, and chest pain. They can also aggravate chronic heart and lung conditions.

People with chronic conditions like heart or lung disease, children, older Ohioans and pregnant women should limit outdoor activity, said Ken Gordon, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Health.

"Spending more time indoors is the best precaution," Gordon said. "Beyond that, you can spend some time in a room that you can close off from outside air. Obviously, you don't want any windows open."

There are other actions Ohioans can take, the agency said, to reduce risk during this time:

  • Avoid using candles, gas, propane, wood-burning stoves, fireplaces and aerosol sprays. Frying or broiling meat, smoking tobacco products, and vacuuming may worsen indoor air pollution.
  • If you have a central air conditioning system, use high efficiency filters to capture fine particles from smoke. If your system has a fresh air intake, set the system to recirculate mode or close the outdoor intake damper.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. If your eyes, nose or throat are irritated, running a humidifier may provide some relief.

Ohioans with asthma are encouraged to carefully follow their asthma action plan, if they have one. And, the agency said, people should make sure to have enough medication on hand for several days.

Those with heart disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) should pay close attention to symptoms such as chest pain or tightness, a fast heartbeat, feeling more out of breath than usual or extreme fatigue. Contact your doctor, or if symptoms are severe, call 911.

To check real-time air quality in your area, visit the AirNow website.

The air quality in Ohio is projected to improve somewhat this weekend.

Contact Jo Ingles at jingles@statehousenews.org.