Algoma Public Health

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Smoke from forest fires affects air quality in Algoma

Tue, Jun 27, 2023

With active forest fires in northeastern Ontario and Quebec, Environment Canada has issued a Special Air Quality Statement for very high levels of air pollution in our region. Algoma Public Health (APH) is reminding residents to take precautions to reduce the risk of exposure.

“Poor air quality can cause health problems, with those at increased risk being children, seniors, pregnant people, people with lung and/or heart conditions, and those who spend long periods of time outdoors” said Nicole Lindahl, manager of Emergency Preparedness and Response at Algoma Public Health. “It is recommended to reduce your time outside if you are at increased risk or are experiencing symptoms such as coughing, eye irritation, or difficulty breathing.”

To protect yourself and minimize the health effects of air pollutants such as wildfire smoke, APH recommends the following during this Special Air Quality Statement:


  • You can review the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) to view the air quality conditions and health recommendations. AQHI provides a number on a scale from 1 to 10+ to indicate the level of health risk associated with air quality in your area. The higher the number, the greater the health risk and need to take precautions. Although this is not available district-wide, Sault Ste. Marie’s current forecasted AQHI for today and tonight, is 10+.

  • Limit the time you spend outdoors.

  • Do frequent check-ins on your health, and check in on neighbors and those around you, especially those who may be vulnerable to smoke.

  • Stop outdoor activities and seek medical attention if you or someone in your care experiences shortness of breath, wheezing (including asthma attacks), severe cough, dizziness, or chest pains.

  • If necessary, take a break from exposure to smoke and heat by temporarily relocating or finding a community location with clean, cool air such as a library, shopping mall, or community centre.

  • Homes can get hot with the windows closed. If you need to go inside to avoid the smoke, make sure the indoor temperature doesn't cause more trouble for you. If you have air conditioning or a fan, use them to stay cool.

  • Protect your indoor air. If you have an HVAC system in your home, use the highest rated MERV filter that your system is rated for and set your system to recirculate at times when air quality is poor and bring in fresh air when the outdoor air has improved.  You can also use a portable High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) air cleaner. Keep your doors and windows closed if the temperature in your home is comfortable.

  • Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water before you feel thirsty to decrease your risk of dehydration.

  • If you experience any feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression, contact your mental health care provider for advice or visit Wellness Together Canada.


Learn more about air quality and health during a wildfire.