Hamilton blanketed in smoky haze from wildfires, as air quality worsens
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Hamilton blanketed in smoky haze from wildfires, as air quality worsens

May 28, 2023

Parts of Hamilton are blanketed in thick smoke from out-of-control wildfires in Quebec, polluting the air and posing a high health risk to residents, according to Environment Canada.

The federal agency issued a special air quality statement Tuesday afternoon urging residents to avoid outdoor activities and close windows and doors.

"Wildfire smoke can be harmful to everyone's health even at low concentrations," Environment Canada said in the statement. "Continue to take actions to protect your health and reduce exposure to smoke."

The agency said people with lung disease or heart disease, older adults, children, pregnant people and those who work outside are at a higher risk of experiencing health effects. People should stop or reduce their activity level if they're feeling unwell.

Similar alerts were issued for Burlington, Brantford and the Niagara Region.

Ontario's air quality health index scored Hamilton Mountain and Hamilton West at a level 10, out of 10, and "high risk," a score among the worst in the province Tuesday.

The downtown area scored an 8 out of 10.

The smell of smoke hung in the air outside CBC Hamilton on James Street North.

Some activities across the city are were cancelled for Tuesday evening, including games with the Mount Hamilton Youth Soccer Club and Saltfleet Stoney Creek Soccer.

Environment Canada said the "widespread smoke" was expected to continue Wednesday.

Hamilton Wentworth District School Board said Tuesday it would be keeping students indoors on Wednesday "as a precaution" and that some outdoor events, such as track and field, were postponed.

In addition to keeping doors and windows closed, Environment Canada said to keep indoor air clean, if possible by using "an air purifier with a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter in a room where you spend a lot of time."

It also suggested to take breaks from the smoke by finding a space with "clean, cool air" such as a library or shopping mall.

"If you must spend time outdoors, a well-fitted respirator type mask (such as a NIOSH certified N95 or equivalent respirator) that does not allow air to pass through small openings between the mask and face, can help reduce your exposure to the fine particles in smoke," it said.

Samantha Beattie is a reporter for CBC Hamilton. She has also worked for CBC Toronto and as a Senior Reporter at HuffPost Canada. Before that, she dived into local politics as a Toronto Star reporter covering city hall.