Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Wildfires in Western Canada Created Air Pollution Spikes as Far Away as New York City

Climate
The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite on the Suomi NPP satellite acquired this image of forest fire smoke hovering over North America on Aug. 15, 2018. NASA Earth Observatory

New York City isn't known for having the cleanest air, but researchers traced recent air pollution spikes there to two surprising sources — fires hundreds of miles away in Canada and the southeastern U.S.


According to a study published this week in the European Geosciences Union's journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, researchers at Yale University monitored air quality at several locations in the New York City metropolitan area and at the Yale Coastal Field Station in Guilford, CT, and found two spikes in air pollutants during August 2018 resulting in ozone advisories in both New York City and Connecticut.

The researchers, from associate professor Drew Gentner's research group, then compared the data from the five observation sites to satellite imagery and backtracking 3D air parcel models developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, New Scientist reported.

They traced the first pollution spike between August 16-17 to historic wildfires on Canada's west coast. By August, British Columbia had declared 2018 its worst wildfire season on record, with 534 fires burning more than 8,000 square miles, according to The CBC.

A second spike from August 27-29 was connected with controlled burns in the southeastern U.S., The Daily Mail reported.

The pollutants they detected included black carbon and particulate matter with a diameter under 2.5 micrometers, called PM2.5, which are common components of smoke from biomass burning and harmful when inhaled.

Previous research has shown that PM2.5 exposure is associated with a number of diseases — including lung and brain cancer, cardiovascular disease and dementia — and even levels allowed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could be responsible for 200,000 deaths per year in the U.S.

A 2019 study found that short-term spikes in PM2.5 pollution resulted in increased hospital psychiatric unit visits for children with anxiety, suicidal thoughts and schizophrenia.

The reason why the PM2.5 pollution traveled hundreds of miles from its sources to the northeast over the course of up to a week, the researchers explained, is that it lasts longer than more reactive components of the smoke which are chemically transformed nearer to the source.

A report from The American Lung Association last year found that New York City was already the tenth worst U.S. city for ozone pollution, but the Yale researchers believe the effects of smoke from faraway wildfires will increasingly pose a threat to residents there and across the northeast due to climate change.

"When people are making predictions about climate change, they're predicting increases in wildfires, so this sort of pollution is likely going to become more common," lead author Haley Rogers, an undergraduate student when the study was conducted, said in a press release. "So when people are planning for air pollution and health impacts, you can't just address local sources."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A bald eagle chick inside a nest in Rutland, Massachusetts. Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
A bald eagle nest with eggs has been discovered in Cape Cod for the first time in 115 years, according to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (Mass Wildlife), as Newsweek reported.
Read More Show Less
The office of Rover.com sits empty with employees working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 12 in Seattle, Washington. John Moore / Getty Images

The office may never look the same again. And the investment it will take to protect employees may force many companies to go completely remote. That's after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new recommendations for how workers can return to the office safely.

Read More Show Less
Frederic Edwin Church's The Icebergs reveal their danger as a crush vessel is in the foreground of an iceberg strewn sea, 1860. Buyenlarge / Getty Images

Scientists and art historians are studying art for signs of climate change and to better understand the ways Western culture's relationship to nature has been altered by it, according to the BBC.

Read More Show Less
Esben Østergaard, co-founder of Lifeline Robotics and Universal Robots, takes a swab in the World's First Automatic Swab Robot, developed with Thiusius Rajeeth Savarimuthu, professor at the Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Institute at The University of Southern Denmark. The University of Southern Denmark

By Richard Connor

The University of Southern Denmark on Wednesday announced that its researchers have developed the world's first fully automatic robot capable of carrying out throat swabs for COVID-19.

Read More Show Less
Jackson Family Wines in California discovered that a huge amount of carbon pollution was caused by manufacturing wine bottles. Edsel Querini / Getty Images

Before you pour a glass of wine, feel the weight of the bottle in your hand. Would you notice if it were a few ounces lighter? Jackson Family Wines is betting that you won't.

Read More Show Less
The SpaceX crew capsule will launch out of Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX

After a minor setback, a new era in space travel and tourism is set to launch this weekend.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A former Federal Reserve board of governors member on Thursday called on her former colleagues to stop using Covid-19 relief funds to bail out the "dying" fossil fuel industry. Douglas Sacha / Getty Images

By Eoin Higgins

A former Federal Reserve board of governors member on Thursday called on her former colleagues to stop using Covid-19 relief funds to bail out the "dying" fossil fuel industry, calling the decision a threat to the planet's climate and a misguided use of taxpayer money.

Read More Show Less