Environment Canada warns air quality could worsen in Simcoe County

Environment Canada issued a special air quality advisory Tuesday as more than 200 forest fires continue to burn in northern Ontario and Quebec. Ahmar Khan has more.

Air quality in Ontario’s Simcoe County area could worsen before it gets better, Environment Canada meteorologists warned Wednesday afternoon.

The federal agency has issued a special air quality statement that is in effect for most of the province as fires in northern Ontario and Quebec continue to burn.

Metrologist Victoria Nurse said the poor air quality in and around Barrie, would likely last into Saturday.

“In the community right now, we’re looking at levels in the moderate to high risk. But going into tomorrow (Thursday), with the favourable wind flow into the Barrie area and the Simcoe County area, we could see values reaching to the extreme risk levels,” Nurse said.

“It’s looking to last into the weekend with a possible reprieve on Saturday when we have another weather system moving through, which should help clean out the smoke.”

Nurse said while smoke likely won’t completely disappear, the hope is that the weather system will help lessen levels in the air.

“We are more concerned about the vulnerable populations such as the elderly, children, as well as pregnant women and people who do have respiratory difficulties,” Nurse said. “It’s advised that people check up on them, and if you see any symptoms (like) difficulty breathing, you are encouraged to contact your health care provider.”

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit suggests people wear a well-fitted respiratory mask if they plan to spend a lot of time outdoors and stay indoors when possible.

The health unit also recommends people stay indoors with windows and doors shut when possible or relocate to a mall, public library, or gym where air ventilation may be better.

Short-term exposure to wildfire smoke and certain air pollutants can cause headaches, breathing issues, irritate eyes, lungs, nose, and throat, and worsen existing heart and lung conditions.

“Regardless of your health status or age, anyone can be affected by wildfire smoke. Listen to your body and reduce exposure if the smoke is affecting you, and remember to look out for others around you,” the health unit said in a statement.

As of Wednesday, the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board said the decision to send students outside for recess is left up to each school.

The Simcoe County District School Board says it is consulting with the health unit and monitoring the air quality, noting that outdoor activities are deemed safe to continue.

For more information, visit http://www.smdhu.org/WildfireSmoke or call Health Connection weekdays 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520.

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