Editor’s Note: This story has been updated from it’s original content posted on June 6 to reflect a decline in air quality on June 7 and updated advice from Dr. Daniel Croft

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Hazy and smoky skies have been prevalent in western New York through much of the spring as fires burned through Alberta in western Canada. Now with wildfires much closer to our area in Quebec, along with other changes in our weather patterns, the smoke has been impacting air quality across our region.

Dr. Daniel Croft, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine, Pulmonary Diseases and Critical Care at URMC, offered new advice as air conditions change. Dr. Croft said that everyone should take action to keep themselves safe as the smoke and air quality get worse, especially people with certain conditions.

“Number one asthma if you have asthma, these particles and this wood smoke from the forest fires will irritate your breathing,” said Dr. Croft.

It’s not just those with asthma, it’s also the very young and elderly, those with COPD, and even those at higher risk for heart attacks. Additionally, he said that the smoke can put individuals who are immunosuppressed at an increased risk for respiratory infection.

“Other issues that can arise from air pollution exposure include heart attacks and so if you have cardiovascular disease, you also need to be careful during the times of high pollution,” said Dr. Croft.

According to Dr. Croft, it’s as simple as staying indoors to stay healthy for now.

“Trying to limit if they do have to go outside, try to limit exertion because that can increase your exposure just for the time being,” said Dr. Croft.

If you do have to go outside he also recommends masking up like you might have during COVID, with either a surgical mask or an N95. All people are encouraged to take caution — regardless of their sensitivity.

Dr. Croft also wanted to remind people that this is a temporary issue while we wait for the smoke to clear out and that most of all, people shouldn’t panic.

Dr. Micheal Mendoza, the commissioner of public health for Monroe County, issued a statement on Wednesday regarding the air quality conditions:

The wildfire smoke is creating a public health hazard in Monroe County, and conditions may
deteriorate before they improve. I am recommending everyone remain indoors as much as
possible, with windows and doors closed to limit exposure to outdoor air. If you go outside for a
brief period, I encourage you to wear a high quality mask and avoid physical activity. These
recommendations remain in effect until further notice.

To determine whether the smoke poses a health risk for some or all individuals, we rely on the
Air Quality Index, or AQI. This is a nationally uniform index that reports information about
common air pollutants, including particles from wildfire smoke. This index is updated
throughout the day and can be accessed at airnow.gov.

Generally speaking, people with chronic lung or heart conditions, older adults, children and
teenagers, pregnant women, and outdoor workers are most at-risk for adverse health effects from
wildfire smoke. However, when the AQI reaches 200 or above (Purple/Brown), all of us are at
elevated risk.

If you have specific concerns about wildfire smoke and your health, please contact your primary
care provider.