Pennsylvania under Code Red Air Quality Alert Due to Wildfire Smoke

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has declared a Code Red Air Quality Action Day throughout the entire Commonwealth for fine particulate matter. Pennsylvania residents should limit their outdoor activities. Children, sensitive populations such as older people, those who exercise or work outdoors and those with lung or respiratory conditions such as asthma, emphysema, or bronchitis should avoid prolonged or heavy outdoor exertion. 

Smoke due to wildfires in eastern Canada will likely contribute to daily average concentrations of fine particulate matter in the Code Red range, with areas farther east experiencing worse air quality, possibly into Code Purple ranges. For areas in Code Purple, all residents should limit outdoor exertion, and sensitive populations should avoid all outdoor exertion. 

Residents are encouraged to limit their time outdoors but do not need to shelter in place. Pets and other animals should be kept indoors. 

The weather pattern pushing the smoke from wildfires in eastern Quebec is forecast to continue until Friday for most of Pennsylvania. DEP will continue to update the forecast to determine ongoing needs for Air Quality Alerts. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Air Quality Index (AQI) provides standardized color codes for forecasting and reporting daily air quality. Green signifies good air quality; Yellow means moderate air quality; Orange represents unhealthy pollution levels for sensitive groups of people; and Red warns of unhealthy pollution levels for all.

An Air Quality Action Day is declared when the AQI is forecasted to be Code Orange or higher. On an Air Quality Action Day, young children, the elderly, and those with respiratory problems, such as asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis, are especially vulnerable to the effects of air pollution and should limit outdoor activities.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) is providing tips to help people stay healthy while current weather patterns push smoke from wildfires in eastern Canada into communities across the Commonwealth.

“Many of us really enjoy spending time outside, however, while the smoke from Canadian wildfires is affecting our air quality, we need to consider moving physical activities indoors or rescheduling them,” said Dr. Debra Bogen, Acting Secretary of Health. “For the next day or two, I encourage people to limit time outside, especially if you are sensitive to poor air quality.”

All Pennsylvanians are encouraged to:

•   Avoid strenuous outdoor activities.

•   Keep outdoor activities short.

•   Consider moving physical activities indoors or rescheduling them.

Tips to help keep particle pollution lower indoors:

•   Don’t use candles or smoke indoors. 

•   Keep windows and doors closed.

•   If you have an air filter in your home, now is a good time to use it.

•   Clean or replace filters according to manufacturer recommendations.

•   If you don’t have one and want to make your own portable air cleaner designed to reduce particles indoors, the EPA offers DIY information