According to a report by IQAir, the United States cities of Chicago and Washington, D.C. have been identified as having the poorest air quality in the world. Additionally, Detroit and Minneapolis also made it into the top 10 of the most polluted cities globally. The root cause of this surge in pollution is attributed to the smoke emanating from 235 uncontrolled wildfires in Canada, which has cast a smoky haze over major cities in the U.S.
The weather pattern over the United States, as indicated by meteorologists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Weather Prediction Center, suggests that this situation could persist into the coming week or possibly even longer. As a result, the U.S. government’s air quality tracking website, AirNow, has issued code red alerts spanning from Richmond, Virginia in the East to Des Moines, Iowa in the Midwest. CNN has reported that approximately 120 million Americans are currently under air quality alerts.
When the Air Quality Index breaches 150, it triggers a red alert, which can impact breathing. Crossing the 200 mark leads to the issuance of a purple alert. Places like Springfield, Illinois in the Midwest have been under a purple alert until Thursday, and even New York City experienced a yellow alert. In response, government officials in the city have been providing N95 masks to subway riders.
The Canadian government has reported that an extensive area of approximately 30,000 square miles has been ravaged by wildfires, an area nearly equivalent to the size of South Carolina. This has resulted in the spread of smoke to the U.S. and the consequent deterioration of air quality since mid-June. Notably, NASA has confirmed that the smoke from these wildfires has even reached Europe.