Wildfire season isn’t over. CT officials are preparing for future air quality risks
Last week’s hazy skies have cleared in the Northeast, but Connecticut’s risk of developing poor air quality from wildfire smoke remains high.
In Canada, forest fires are most common from May to September. But federal officials say climate change has already led to longer and more intense wildfire seasons.
State health officials said Monday they are preparing for that risk.
Manisha Juthani, commissioner of the state Department of Public Health, said Connecticut has “millions” of N95 and KN95 masks in storage, ready to give to local health departments.
On Monday, the agency said it delivered over 92,000 additional masks to 20 local health departments that ordered them following four days of bad air last week, which hit Fairfield County particularly hard.
Bad air contributed to lung health issues during that time, Juthani said.
“We definitely did see a little bit of an uptick in visits to emergency departments for respiratory ailments, whether it be throat burning, cough, shortness of breath, asthma exacerbations,” Juthani said.
Children especially were seen in the emergency room for asthma symptoms, she said. Juthani advised that people make a point to take out or replenish their N95 and KN95 mask supply.
As of Monday, Connecticut was still experiencing “moderate” levels of dangerous air pollution.
Ruth Canovi is advocacy director of American Lung Association in Connecticut. She said that on bad air quality days, everyone – especially more vulnerable populations like children, older adults, people living with heart and lung disease – should take extra precautions to avoid further health issues.
“Even short term exposure to particulate matter pollution, like we saw last week, can affect both lungs and heart,” Canovi said.
But as the wildfires continue, there’s a chance pollution levels could increase in Connecticut soon, said Katie Dykes, commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
“While we have some relief, because of the weather patterns that directed the smoke away from Connecticut and this area, it's possible that it will return,” Dykes said.
Residents with questions about their lung health can speak to nurses and respiratory therapists through the American Lung Association’s helpline, 1-800 Lung USA.