Smoke from fires burning in northern Quebec has coated Montreal, again, leading to poor air quality that is five to six times worse than in early June, according to a medical director at Montreal Public Health.
Environment Canada reported that the air quality health index (AQHI) for Montreal was 10+ on Sunday, which corresponds to a “very high risk” level. It went down to nine on Monday, which corresponds to a “high health risk.”
Wildfire smoke spreads fine particles in the air that can get in people’s lungs and make it difficult to breathe. Breathing in these particles can lead to chest pain, headaches and a general feeling of being unwell.
David Kaiser, a medical director at Montreal Public Health, said in an interview that people with heart and lung conditions are particularly vulnerable, but with this much smoke and pollution in the air, everyone can feel its effects.
“So you go for a jog yesterday morning or this morning, you may start to feel some chest tightness, some shortness of breath. That’s a sign that probably should stop, get inside, take a break because like I said, at these levels anybody can start having those impacts,” said Kaiser.
Stay indoors, wear a mask
Kaiser recommends people stay inside with doors and windows shut and the air conditioner running if possible. Avoiding exposure is key, he says.
Environment Canada recommends using an air purifier with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter air inside and wearing a well-fitted respirator-type mask outside.
It also recommends checking up on people who may be more vulnerable to smoke.
People should be aware of their mental health as it is normal to feel anxious or isolated during a smoke event, says Environment Canada.
Rain and thunderstorms forecast
Montreal is expecting showers and thunderstorms Monday and Tuesday, with a rainfall of about 20 to 40 milimeters expected.
The rain may help dissipate the fine particles and improve air quality. Environment Canada says Montreal’s AQHI should go down to two on Tuesday, which represents a “low health risk.”