Air quality alerts remain in effect for Chicago area due to smoke from Canadian wildfires

Air Quality Alerts are in effect for Chicago area and in Indiana, Wisconsin

Wednesday, June 28, 2023
Heavy haze remains in Chicago area from Canadian wildfires
Chicago air quality was at dangerous levels for the second day in a row as a heavy haze from Canadian wildfires continued to hang over the entire metro area.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Chicago area continues to be under an air quality alert Wednesday because of smoke from Canadian wildfires filling the skies.

Chicago's air quality remains in the very unhealthy category, with people encouraged to limit their time outside, even healthy people with no respiratory problems. AirNOw.gov lists Chicago air quality at 231 as of 9 p.m. Wednesday.

Air Quality Alerts are in effect for the Chicago area and the Rockford area for until midnight Wednesday. Alerts are also in effect in Wisconsin and Indiana.

Drifting smoke from the ongoing wildfires across Canada has created blankets of haze prompting the EPA to issue an air quality alert warning of potentially dangerous health effects.

WATCH: Time-lapse shows hazy skies in Chicago

A time-lapse shows haze from Canada wildfire smoke emerge in Chicago Tuesday morning.

According to an ABC News report, the Harvard University Environmental Health Department Chair said an air quality index of 150 is equivalent to smoking an estimated seven cigarettes a day for someone spending the majority of their time outdoors. AQI has been higher than 200 for most of the day in Chicago Wednesday.

"Your bronchioles, the tubes that lead down to your lungs are going to be more inflamed. And that's going to make them feel like they're closing off a bit," said Dr. Jordan Moskoff of Stroger Hospital.

"I would never say that air pollution is worse than smoking but, what is really bad right now is the acute effects like there are going to be more asthma attacks there are going to be more heart attacks with the short term exposure," said Dr. Susan Buchanan, UIC Public Health Associate Professor.

Chicago officials warned vulnerable citizens and people with respiratory issues to stay indoors. The haze in the suburbs was no less thick, and the health warnings no less urgent.

The haze that blanketed Chicago's suburbs Wednesday was no less thick than in the city, and the health warnings no less urgent.

"People who already have intrinsic asthma, or COPD or cardiovascular disease or long term COVID have uncomfortable awareness of breathing has become exacerbated in this bad air," said Dr. Phillip Cozzi of Elmhurst Memorial Hospital.

The Buffalo Grove Park District closed their spray park and brought kids in summer camps indoors. Some exercising on the lakefront have been wearing masks, while some in the suburbs either skipped their workouts or shortened them for safety.

Tracking air quality across the Chicago area

ABC7 meteorologist Larry Mowry explains how Canadian wildfires sent the haze hovering over Chicago and negatively impacting our air quality.

"You can definitely tell it smells like a campfire out here," runner Kevin Williams said. "I'm actually from New Mexico and just visiting out here and we've had some fires out there in the past and it reminds me of the smoky fires in California that blow into New Mexico."

Many commuters chose to wear masks in the Loop.

Dr. Manu Jain, Pulmonary and Critical Care Specialist at Northwestern Medicine talks about the health impacts from the unhealthy air quality.

Mark Domke was biking on the lakefront. He isn't letting the outdoor conditions stop him.

"I couldn't tell yesterday," Domke said. "I can't tell today. I wanted to wear a mask today to see if the mask would show anything but you know I'm a cigar smoker so this is clean to me."

How to stay safe with dangerous air quality

Those who have to be outside are recommended to mask up, with an N95 mask if possible. With the poor air quality, AirNow.gov recommends people with heart or lung disease, older adults, children and teens to reduce exposure by:

  • Avoiding strenuous outdoor activities
  • Keeping outdoor activities short
  • Consider moving physical activities indoors or rescheduling them

For everyone, officials recommend people:

  • Choose less strenuous activities (like walking instead of running) so you don't breathe as hard
  • Shorten the amount of time you are active outdoors
  • Be active outdoors when air quality is better

Chicago respite centers open to help residents without access to safe air

If you do not have access to properly ventilated and safe indoor areas, the city has several respite centers that are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.:

  • Englewood center at 1140 W. 79th Street
  • King Center at 4314 S. Cottage Grove
  • North Area Center at 845 W. Wilson Avenue
  • South Chicago Center at 8650 S. Commercial Drive
  • Trina Davila Center at 4312 W. North Avenue

Garfield Center at 10 South Kedzie Avenue is open 24 hours a day as a respite center as well, the city said.