Smoke from Canadian fires impacts West Virginia air quality

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Much of West Virginia is covered with hazy skies this week. Most of the haze is a result of a shift in winds from the north blowing in smoke from out of control forest fires in Canada. The fires have been burning for weeks. Earlier in June and during the month of May, smoke was noticeable in West Virginia. However a shift in weather patterns took it toward the northwest and away from the Mountain State for several weeks.

This week it returned and has prompted advisories from the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Health and Human Resources. The two agencies put out a joint announcement about air quality in the Mountain State Wednesday afternoon.

The announcement was a statewide Air Quality Advisory for fine particulate matter from the wildfire smoke. The quality scores come from The unofficial air monitors in the Northern Panhandle counties of West Virginia indicated the air quality index was in the range of 201-300. The rating for that index is “very unhealthy” according to the advisory.

The rating for the Morgantown-Fairmont-Clarksburg area of the state was 151-200. It’s considered “unhealthy” by the website. The Charleston area’s air quality index Wednesday stood at 101-150 which fell into the category of “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups.”

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, AQI scores in the 201-300 range (purple) indicate an increased risk of health effects for everyone. Scores in the 151-200 range (red) indicated that some members of the general public may experience health effects and members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects. Areas with scores in the 101-150 range (orange) will primarily impact those who are sensitive to air pollution.

Per the EPA, citizens in areas with poor air quality are encouraged to limit their time outdoors and avoid strenuous activities. N-95 masks can help reduce smoke inhalation and potential health risks.

The state urged everyone in West Virginia to check conditions in their area via the website and follow the advisories as they occur.

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