How you can stay safe amidst wildfire air pollution

Published: Jun. 7, 2023 at 6:03 PM EDT
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BRIDGEPORT, W.Va (WDTV) - Recently, you may have seen photos from around the east coast of hazy, smoky skies. That’s due to wildfires in Canada.

As the wind carries smoke from Canadian wildfires down the east coast, it is important to be on the lookout for ways it could be affecting your health. Mary Wade Burnside, public information officer at the Monongalia County Health Department says there are many symptoms that could be brought on by the haze.

“Particles can get in your lungs and cause problems with breathing. Symptoms can also include irritated eyes, coughing and wheezing, headaches, chest pain, sinus irritation and even fatigue,” says Burnside.

Timothy Nurkiewicz, director of the Center for Inahalation Toxicology and Systems Toxicology Training Program at WVU, says the most important thing you can do to be mindful of your health is to check the air quality. Doing this before going outside and taking the conditions into consideration can go a long way in taking care of yourself.

“By checking what the air quality index is before you go out, you can determine A.) whether you should go out, B.) how long you would be out and C.) what you would be doing while you are outdoors, uh, and by considering those three things in the context of the quality of the air, you can do a lot to protect your health,” says Nurkiewicz.

You can check air quality in West Virginia on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website. Go to and check the monitors in your area. Air quality statuses range from good to unhealthy to hazardous. As of June 7, the air quality in north-central West Virginia is unsafe for sensitive groups. Sensitive groups include the elderly, immunocompromised and those with preexisting conditions like asthma and heart disease.

However, there are ways you can prevent these effects, the most important being to stay inside. Keep outdoor activity under 20 minutes at a time. Wearing a mask, especially an N95, can also help limit the amount of harmful particles that enter your airways.