Evanston issues air quality alert, closes beaches and cancels some events


Angeli Mittal/Daily Senior Staffer

Smoke covered Chicagoland skies Tuesday morning.

Nicole Markus, Summer Editor in Chief

Evanston closed beaches and canceled some outdoor events Tuesday, warning of unhealthy air quality levels.

The smokey air in the area comes after wildfire smoke from Canada moved into the region. Air quality indexes rank the Chicagoland area as the current worst in the world, with an AQI of approximately 190 fine particles per cubic meter.

Canadian wildfire smoke has affected cities across the northern U.S. for the majority of June. In New York City, hazardous air qualities caused orange skies and an AQI of 413 earlier this month.

In the Greater Chicago alert, which is in place until midnight on Wednesday, the National Weather Service warned those with pulmonary and respiratory conditions to “avoid long or intense” outdoor activities in a press release. Everyone else should also try to reduce outdoor activities whenever possible.

Ravi Kalhan, Northwestern Medicine’s deputy division chief of pulmonary and critical care, said those with asthma, chronic pulmonary obstructive disease and heart disease should “certainly” stay inside.

When they are exposed to and inhale wildfire smoke, which is mostly made up of fine particles (PM2.5), those particles are tiny enough to get deep into the lungs and trigger an inflammatory response in the body, which can worsen chronic health conditions,” Kalhan said.

According to Kalhan, those who have access to N95s should wear them outside. Other mitigating efforts include turning on air purifiers and keeping windows closed.

Kalhan said if continually exposed, air quality indexes as high as these can cause long-term health effects.

“Today, the air quality index in Chicago has been approaching 200. That’s like smoking a half-a-pack of cigarettes a day,” Kalhan said. “Luckily, these high-intensity exposures have usually only lasted a few days, but with climate change and increasing exposure to wildfire smoke on a sustained basis, it does create long-term risk for the public health.”

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