Wildfire smoke casts haze over Chicago skies, impacting air quality

Greg Dutra Image
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Wildfire smoke casts haze over Chicago skies, worsening air quality
It may look cool, but could this smoke in the air affect your health?

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Smoke from western wildfires is making the sky over the Chicago area look hazy and even casting an orange hue over the moon. It may look cool, but could this smoke in the air affect your health?

And it's not just us - there's a huge portion of the U.S. that is dealing with this. Thick haze extends east to Boston and New York City, and thinner smoke stretches all the way south to the border with Mexico!

While most of the smoke is aloft, some is also making it to ground level and affecting our Air Quality Index, also called the AQI.

RELATED | Massive western wildfires cloud NYC, East Coast in haze

"What you have to know about the AQI is that 100 is the level where unsafe starts to happen, where the air is labeled unhealthy," said Brian Urbaszewski, director of environmental health programs at Respiratory Health Association. "And that can be from ozone/smog, it could be from fine particulate matter, like soot. It could be from any number of air pollutants as well."

Urbaszewski said the Chicago area's AQI is in the 80s, approaching 90s. Northwest Indiana is over 100.

"When you hit that 100 level and you're exceeding federal air quality health standards, it's really at the point where people, especially with chronic diseases, lung and heart conditions, should really take it easy, stay indoors," Urbaszewski said.

So if you're feeling the effects of the haze, or if you just want to know more about the air quality day-to-day, you can use the resource that I do: airnow.gov. You just pop in your zip code and it'll pull up AQI. There's even an option to have alerts sent to you when the air quality is bad.