POTSDAM, N.Y. (WWTI) — The North Country, like the rest of New York is covered in haze.
Since June 5, smoke from ongoing wildfires in the Quebec province of Canada has traveled south to New York. Smoke has worsened air quality due to high concentrations of particulate matter.
Air quality warnings have been triggered for several days. Clarkson University Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Suresh Dhaniyala said this is due to health-threatening pollutants.
“What will be in the air will be particles with a lot of carbon content,” Dhaniyala explained. “Some black carbon and then a little bit of organics. It can be a lung irritant.”
This originally caused concern for people with existing respiratory issues. But the air quality index exceeded 200 and 300 for fine particles in some parts of the region. This downgraded the air quality to “very unhealthy” or “hazardous” levels.
Experts then advised all people to take more precautions, such as mask-wearing and limiting outdoor activities to a minimum.
Clarkson University has followed this issue since the pollution event started. Dhaniyala’s department has several air quality sensors on campus which have tracked the spike.
But Dhaniyala warned that air quality concerns are not outdoor-exclusive. Based on recent research led by his department, indoor air concentrations typically are 30% of what is outdoors.
“The particulate matter we see indoors has largely followed the trend outdoors,” he shared.
According to Dhaniyala, this is especially a concern as many buildings recently upgraded filtration systems during the COVID-19 pandemic to increase outdoor airflow.
So he said in the coming days, the region’s best hope is for the winds to change.
“The solution to pollution is dilution,” he expressed. “For us [in the North Country], it’s almost entirely coming from forest fires. The moment the breeze blows through or the direction of the winds change, we should see and immediate effect.”
Experts have predicted that air quality conditions will remain poor through the end of the weekend as Canadian wildfires continue to burn.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation also extended air quality alerts for Jefferson and Lewis counties. Individuals should continue to limit outdoor activity until the smoke clears.