Michigan residents face another day of unhealthy air quality due to Canadian wildfires

By: - June 29, 2023 12:00 pm

A view from Belle Isle looking north toward Detroit’s downtown skyline on Thursday morning. (Ken Coleman)

For a second day, Detroit-area residents have been advised to stay indoors whenever possible and consider wearing an N95 mask when outdoors.

The Detroit Health Department (DHD) on Wednesday provided guidance for residents concerned about the poor air quality in the city, which is being caused by ongoing wildfires in Canada. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) has issued an air quality alert for Southeast Michigan, which included Detroit, for Wednesday and ending on Thursday at noon.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Air Quality Index indicates that the Detroit area’s air quality rating is currently at “purple.” Ratings of “purple” or higher represent “very unhealthy” levels, especially for sensitive populations. On Wednesday, Detroit was at “maroon” indicating “hazardous” air quality.

AQI guide via DHHS

Lansing and Grand Rapids had the same “very unhealthy” rating on Thursday.

“The health effects of particle pollution exposure can range from relatively minor (e.g., eye and respiratory tract irritation) to more serious health effects (e.g., exacerbation of asthma and heart failure, and premature death). Older adults, pregnant women, children, and people with preexisting respiratory and heart conditions may be more likely to get sick if they breathe in wildfire smoke,” DHD’s statement read.

Christina Floyd, DHD’s acting chief public health officer, said the Health Department is recommending that people limit their time outdoors and refrain from any outdoor strenuous activity.

Wildfire smoke from Canada hangs over the Michigan Capitol in Lansing on June 29, 2023. (Anna Gustafson)

For people with heart or lung disease, older adults, children, and teens, Floyd recommended the follow steps to reduce exposure:

Stay indoors as much as possibleKeep windows and doors closed, if possibleMove physical activities indoors or rescheduling themBe sure to wear a mask

A one-hour drive Thursday morning along some of Motor City’s streets and major thoroughfares, however, showed few people wearing masks.

“We are continually monitoring the situation and are in close contact with our partners at EGLE, the City’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, as well as the City’s Environmental division,” said Floyd. “As conditions warrant, we will provide additional updates and guidance to help make sure our residents stay safe.

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman writes about Southeast Michigan, history and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on Black life in Detroit.