Wildfire smoke from northern Ontario and Quebec is leading to high air pollution levels expected to blanket most of Ontario in the next few days.
Smoke plumes from the forest fires will move farther south Tuesday afternoon or night, deteriorating air quality.
The air quality statement has expanded across southern Ontario, covering almost the whole province from London to Ottawa and Toronto.
Steven Flisfeder, an Environment Canada warning preparedness meteorologist, says it will take some time for wildfire smoke to move east, likely hitting the Ottawa area by noon on Wednesday.
“What we’re expecting is that the smoke plumes from the fires in northeastern Ontario and Quebec will make their way down towards southern Ontario, and that will deteriorate the air quality through the afternoon and evening,” Flisfeder says.
“If you’re out and about this morning, it should be OK. As we get towards the afternoon and evening, that’s when the air quality will deteriorate, and people should start thinking about ways to keep themselves safe from poor air quality.”
Air quality and visibility due to wildfire smoke can fluctuate over short distances and can vary considerably from hour to hour, the weather agency says.
Flisfeder warns the situation may change depending on the direction the wind is blowing.
“For most parts of southern Ontario right now, it’s looking like it could remain in place until at least Thursday. Some parts of southern Ontario may be into deteriorating air quality, potentially into Friday as well,” he says.
This is not the first time wildfire smoke has had far-reaching effects this summer.
“Typically, in a given year, it’s northern and northwestern Ontario that are the most affected by smoke and air quality concerns,” he says. “This year, given the fire situation in northeastern Ontario and Quebec in particular, we’ve been in a regime of smoky air making its way to the surface across southern Ontario, so it has been more of a concern than the typical year.”
Environment Canada warns that wildfire smoke can be harmful to everyone’s health, even at low concentrations.
“People with lung disease (such as asthma) or heart disease, older adults, children, pregnant people, and people who work outdoors are at higher risk of experiencing health effects caused by wildfire smoke,” the weather agency says.
People are advised to consult with their health-care provider and either stop or reduce activity levels if breathing becomes uncomfortable.
The weather agency suggests people drink lots of water to help their bodies cope with the smoke, seek out places with clear air and wear an N95 mask outdoors.
“Reduce sources of indoor air pollution. If you can, avoid smoking or vaping indoors, burning incense and candles, frying foods, using wood stoves and vacuuming. Dust on indoor surfaces can be removed by wiping and wet mopping during a pollution episode,” the weather agency says.