behind the impressive images because of fires, health risks

The White House on Wednesday called on people whose health is fragile “to take precautions” as several American cities are on alert due to air pollution from Canada.

Manhattan under an orange veil. The images taken this Wednesday, June 7 in New York seem straight out of a science fiction film. Intimidating skies and air pollution straight from Canada.

More than 150 fires are currently active – including nearly a hundred deemed out of control – in the province of Quebec. Historic fires that are unlikely to stop until heavy rain arrives next week. The disaster was such that even France sent firefighters to lend a hand to the Canadians. Consequence of this wave of fires: the air is unbreathable, both in Canada and in the northeastern United States.

“Visibility is very very complicated and the air is really unbreathable”, testified Estelle, a French tourist who is in New York, “we feel as if we had made a big barbecue”.

The latter evokes “a taste of smoke” which spreads in the mouths and noses of Americans, with the other effect “the eyes which sting and are ultra-irritated”.

“Potentially dangerous”

Bruno Crestani, head of the pulmonology department at the Bichat hospital in Paris and president of the Fondation du Souffle, informs our branch of the health risks caused by this polluted air.

“It is potentially dangerous if you are asthmatic, if you have a respiratory illness, if you are a chronic bronchopath, if you are very old or if you, on the contrary, are a young baby, you can have respiratory consequences”, lists the pulmonologist on BFMTV.

The doctor evokes the dangerousness of forest fires, “particularly toxic”. “Their content is different: there are gases but also fine and ultrafine particles which can travel very far and which can enter the lung and circulate in the blood,” he explains.

“It can cause cardiovascular problems. It has been shown that in the days following an exposure like this for a few hours or a few days there can be strokes and strokes, myocardial infarctions, attacks of heart failure …”, further develops Bruno Crestani on our antenna.

Wearing a mask and glasses can be useful

Present in New York, Estelle tells on our antenna that “more and more people in the street have masks”. A ridiculous step? “Not at all,” says the pulmonologist.

“Depending on the size of the particles, your mask will be more or less effective”, specifies Bruno Crestani, judging the surgical mask “practically ineffective on fine particles” but useful for other larger particles: “you will have less irritation of the respiratory tract, on the other hand for the nose it will not change much”. Another far from silly idea: wearing glasses “to avoid irritation of the conjunctiva”.

But the smoke caused by the Canadian fires did not stop in New York: the deterioration of the air was also observed even in Washington DC, the federal capital of the United States where the White House is located. Asked about this pollution, the spokesperson for the American executive Karine Jean-Pierre indicated that President Joe Biden was kept informed of the evolution of these fires, and called on Americans whose health is fragile to “take precautions” against air pollution.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, for 100 million people, from Chicago in the northeast to Atlanta in the south, “air quality in this area is primarily affected by Canadian fires.”

Hugues Garnier with AFP BFMTV journalist

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