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Wildfire smoke envelops Toronto, bringing poor air quality, high pollution

Environment Canada has increased the air quality risk level for Toronto on Wednesday, up from Tuesday, as smoky conditions continue to swirl around the city and the smell of burning fills the air.

Special weather statement for Toronto continues Wednesday

Smog lingers over Toronto at sunrise, with a red sun glowing behind the fog

Environment Canada has increased the air quality risk level for Toronto on Wednesday, up from Tuesday, as smoky conditions continue to swirl around the city and the smell of burning fills the air.

The agency issued a special weather alert for the city on Wednesday morning, stating that high levels of pollution had developed due to forest fires in Quebec and northeastern Ontario.

Environment Canada is predicting that Toronto will reach a seven on the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) Wednesday, which measures air quality based on how it will impact health. That number indicates a high risk level during the day, and means people may want to consider cancelling outdoor activities.

"There's a ridge over Ontario right now, so it means these winds are consistently bringing in poor air quality," said Trudy Kidd, an operational metrologist with Environment Canada.

That high risk is set to continue into Thursday, and is up from a moderate risk on Tuesday, when the city was a level five on the scale of one to ten.

Moderate risk levels mean the general population need not cancel "usual activities" unless you start to experience symptoms like throat or cough irritation. For at-risk populations at that risk level, consider rescheduling outdoor activities if symptoms are present, according to Environment Canada's website.

Those with lung disease, such as asthma, people with heart disease, older people, children, pregnant people and those who work outside are at higher risk of experiencing health effects, the agency said.

Premier Doug Ford also commented on the wildfires and poor conditions Wednesday during question period at Queen's Park, urging that the public refrain from lighting campfires.

He said 52 fires are considered out of control in Ontario right now, with half started by lightning strikes and the other half caused by human activity like not properly extinguishing campfires.

WATCH | Toronto's hazy skies:

See the smoky, hazy skies over Toronto

2 hours ago

Duration 0:43

Environment Canada issued an air quality alert for Toronto on Wednesday as the city faced smoky, hazy conditions from wildfires in Quebec and parts of Ontario.

When the index indicates a high level of risk, the general population should consider rescheduling or reducing outdoor activities if symptoms are experienced. At-risk populations should reschedule outdoor activities, according to Environment Canada.

"Stop those outdoor activities and contact a health-care provider, if you or someone in your care experiences shortness of breath or wheezing, asthma attacks, cough, dizziness or chest pains," said Kidd.

"Poor air quality will persist into the weekend," said Environment Canada's statement. The agency's most recent warning was firmer than Tuesday, as the agency previously said there were hopes the conditions would ease by the weekend. A low pressure system that could bring in cleaner air may arrive by Sunday, said Kidd.

"Wildfire smoke can be harmful to everyone's health even at low concentrations. Continue to take actions to protect your health and reduce exposure to smoke," states Environment Canada in its alert for Toronto.

Air quality and visibility due to the wildfire smoke can fluctuate over short distances and can vary considerably from hour to hour. But wildfire smoke can be harmful even at low concentrations, it said.

Wear a mask if outside, recommends Environment Canada

If you must spend time outdoors, Environment Canada recommends wearing a well-fitted respirator type mask like an N95 to help reduce exposure to fine particles in smoke.

"These fine particles generally pose the greatest risk to health. However, respirators do not reduce exposure to the gases in wildfire smoke," it said in its statement Wednesday.

WATCH: Air quality risks are high as smoke covers large sections of central Canada:

Drifting wildfire smoke pushes air quality risk 'off the charts'

17 hours ago

Duration 3:40

Air quality risks are ‘off the charts’ in Ottawa as smoke and haze cover large sections of central Canada. Toronto, Kingston, Ont., and Montreal are also feeling the effects as Environment Canada warns the air could be dangerous to human health for most of the week.

It's important to stop activities if you feel unwell, it said.

Environment Canada recommends the following:

  • If you or someone in your care experiences shortness of breath, wheezing, severe cough, dizziness or chest pains, stop outdoor activities and contact your health care provider.
  • If you are feeling unwell and experiencing symptoms, stay inside.
  • Keep your indoor air clean.
  • Keep your doors and windows closed if the temperature in your home is comfortable.
  • Take a break from the smoke by temporarily relocating or finding a place in your community with clean, cool air such as a library, shopping mall or community centre.
  • If you must spend time outdoors, a well-fitted respirator type mask that does not allow air to pass through small openings between the mask and your face can help reduce your exposure to fine particles in smoke.
  • Be sure to check on people in your care and those who may be more susceptible to smoke.
  • Evacuate if told to do so.
  • Review your wildfire smoke plan and make sure you have enough medical supplies if the smoke continues to be an issue.

Toronto-area school board moves recess indoors

Due to the air quality warning for the Toronto area, one school board in the region has opted to move recess inside for safety, while others say they are monitoring the situation.

The York Catholic District School Board said in a statement Tuesday evening that indoor recess would be held indoors all day on Wednesday due to poor air quality.

The Peel District School Board said Tuesday that "strenuous outdoor activities" scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday would be cancelled, including athletic events. While outdoor recess is allowed to continue, it encouraged students to "avoid strenuous activity" and stay inside if they chose.

The Toronto District School Board made the same changes and issued the same guidance as Peel. Further, it said "TDSB schools will also ensure that HEPA air filters are continuing to be used," and it will monitor the situation. The Toronto Catholic District School Board left the choice up to schools, stating that it recommends indoor recess be considered along with possibly rescheduling activities.

The Dufferin Catholic District School Board said it will also keep an eye on the air quality Wednesday and that it would be going ahead with field trips due to difficulties in rescheduling.

Schools aren't the only thing in the city that's affected — in an e-mail sent to CBC News, Toronto Blue Jays spokesperson Madeleine Davidson said that due to poor air quality, the dome will remain closed for Wednesday night's baseball game.

"Should Environment Canada indicate that air quality has vastly improved ahead of game-time, we will re-evaluate and update fans," said Davidson.

With files from The Canadian Press

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Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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