Wildfire smoke continued to fill the skies over southeastern Ontario Wednesday, including the Kingston area, for a third day in a row.
Environment Canada said an air quality statement remains in place and public health advised people to limit their time outdoors due to health risks.
Hospitals have reported an increase in the number of people showing up in emergency rooms complaining of shortness of breath.
The potential health effects of the smokey haze have also started to impact some local businesses and sightseeing tours.
“I think it wears you out a little bit quicker,” said Pat Peterson, an American tourist visiting Kingston.
Kingston’s air quality index hit 10+ during the day, the highest on the scale, before easing slightly to an eight later in the day.
Officials say the sulphurous haze blown here from forest fires burning in Quebec and northern Ontario contains harmful pollutants and fine particulate matter.
Public health urges people to minimize their exposure to outside air, especially those with underlying respiratory issues.
“We’ll see more patients with asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) who are exposed to those air particles coming into the emergency room,” said respirologist Dr. Mike Fitzpatrick.
“I think it’s definitely made us think about how active we’re going to be because you are definitely breathing in a good amount of smoke. You can feel it,” Peterson said.
It seems many residents are taking the advice to heart with noticeably fewer people in parks, and on patios like the one downtown at The Caesar Company.
“Today we are kind of anticipating that business is a little bit slower. Obviously, it isn’t ideal conditions,” said Allie Jones, a supervisor at the restaurant.
The poor air quality over the last few days has also left one of the city’s most popular downtown draws docked.
Thousand Island Tours has had to cancel all but one of its regularly scheduled boat trips on Wednesday alone.
“Today our one-hour cruise on the Island Belle is not operating and our beautiful waterfront patio closed today because we have less interest from visitors,” said Kingston Destination Group General Manager Eric Ferguson.
Ferguson said the tour company will continue to assess the situation on a daily basis, and that more cancellations may be in store over the next couple of days.
Environment Canada is predicting the air quality might improve slightly Thursday before deteriorating again Friday, meaning it could be the weekend before we see blue skies again.
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