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Smoke story: Wayland and Hornell top state Air Quality Index measurements

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“Those with asthma, heart disease, or other respiratory issues are most at risk”

By Lynn White, photo by Mary Layman

Thick smoke from over 150 Canadian wildfires nearly 300 miles away moved into the area this week, significantly impacting air quality throughout the state prompting concerns for area residents. 

In addition to the hazy conditions, burning smell, and red hazy glow of the sun, the smoke can also pose a risk to even those without pre-existing respiratory conditions. 

“The particles in this smoke are very fine,” said Dr. Jaime Luis Molina, Pulmonary and Critical Care Physician at UR Medicine Noyes Health in Dansville. “Larger particles settle down earlier, but these fine particles can travel for hundreds of miles. Because of the chemicals in the smoke, the air conditions can affect anyone, causing, wheezing, discomfort and respiratory discomfort.”

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation issued an alert indicating a concerning air quality index for Western New York, Central New York, Eastern Lake Ontario, and the Adirondacks.

Regionally, the Air Quality Index has consistently been in the “unhealthy” to “very unhealthy” range. To check current air quality alerts in your area, visit airnow.gov

“When you can see smoke, that means there are particles in the air. When you breathe, your lungs are a filter,” said Molina. “When you breathe that in, those particles are mostly staying in your lungs. Wood and other things that are currently burning in Canada have chemicals and resins in it. When you breathe those chemicals in, that can cause lung problems.”

Molina advises it is best to limit outdoor activities while the air quality alert is in place. 

“Air conditioners can help filter out some of the particles,” said Molina,” but is best to avoid working out outside, running, and other vigorous activities.”

Those with asthma, heart disease, or other respiratory issues are most at risk, says Daniel Croft, MD, MPH, a member of URMC’s Environmental Health Sciences Center (EHSC) and assistant professor of Pulmonary and Critical Care for the department of medicine.

For all others, if you remain outside for extended periods or exert yourself outdoors, you may feel some irritation in your eyes or nose and feel out of breath more quickly than usual. As the smoke and air quality consists or worsens, these tips can apply to everyone, regardless of sensitivity: stay inside if possible, recirculate the air in the car, avoid strenuous activity outdoors, wear a N95 or respirator when outside and use an indoor air cleaner if able. Asthmatics should keep inhalers close by. 

Those who smoke or vape may have added risk compared to the general population who don’t use these products. This could be a time to consider quitting smoking, or reducing tobacco/vape use, even temporarily.

You should seek medical advice if you experience significant wheezing, worsening cough, shortness of breath.

Air quality as of Wednesday, June 7 at 3 p.m.:

  • Dansville- 179 (Unhealthy)
  • Geneseo – 179 (Unhealthy)
  • Wayland – 444 (Hazardous)
  • Hornell – 444 (Hazardous)
  • Wellsville – 179 (Unhealthy)
  • Avon – 152 (Unhealthy)
  • Warsaw – 179 (Unhealthy)
  • Henrietta – 152 (Unhealthy)
  • Buffalo – 179 (Unhealthy)
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