Remember those masks you had during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic? Do you still have plenty of them? Perhaps they’re tucked away in a kitchen drawer or between your car seats.
If you’ve been considering discarding those masks, think again. Not only could the COVID-19 virus or a future virus emerge, but you might also need them to protect yourself from the smoke during forest fires.
The Canadian forest fires have been raging for two months, and there are no signs on the horizon indicating a significant improvement in the situation anytime soon.
As of late June, more than 500 separate, identifiable forest fires were burning in Canada. Now, the focus of the fires has shifted to the eastern half of the country, primarily affecting Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia. The situation has prompted the evacuation of thousands of individuals. Firefighters from the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa have joined forces with Canadian firefighters to combat the fires.
People living, working, or visiting Eden Prairie have certainly experienced the effects, as have people in Edina or Evergreen Park, Illinois.
The Midwest has been hit as hard as any region of the U.S. A few days before the Fourth of July, the Twin Cities and Chicago were cited as the two most polluted cities in the world.
So, what is Eden Prairie doing in response to this?
Being outside is where the problem is most noticeable. More difficulty in breathing and itchy eyes are the most common side effects. This means that park and recreation activities are the ones under scrutiny.
“We are closely monitoring the situation each day,” said Jay Lotthammer, the city’s parks and recreation director. “We have canceled some events if the air quality reaches a bad point. We view it like we have viewed canceling events because of rain. We then look to rescheduling.”
He and his staff are particularly watching outdoor events for children or seniors.
What can you do to reduce the effects of the haze and smoke coming down from Canada?
John Hunter, spokesperson for the Minnesota chapter of the American Lung Association, offered several suggestions.
“First, make sure your home is closed up as much as possible,” Hunter said.
In addition, he emphasized the importance of ensuring that your air conditioner recirculates the air instead of pulling it in from outside. He recommended that individuals change their furnace and air conditioning filters frequently.
If individuals wish to wear an air mask outdoors, Hunter advised that N95 masks are the most effective. However, he emphasized that they are not suitable for children.
Hunter and those monitoring the situation in Canada expect the conditions to persist throughout the summer and into the fall. One of the reasons for this is the projected continuation of hot weather.
Just how hot is it? On July 3, the average worldwide temperature was the highest in recorded history.
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