GEORGETOWN COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) issued Wednesday an air quality alert for Georgetown County due to widespread smoke from Canadian wildfires.

Hundreds of wildfires burning in western and eastern Canada have sent smoke wafting through the United States in recent weeks, leading to poorer air quality across New York, the Great Lakes region, and southern states.

Officials say the large swath of smoke is expected to create hazy skies and unhealthy breathing conditions, especially in areas where smoke is most concentrated.

The Air Quality Index, or AQI, was 80 for Georgetown as of Monday morning, which is an unhealthy level for sensitive groups. AQI levels of 50 or below are considered the healthiest, while an AQI value over 300 represents hazardous air quality.

Experts say that short-term exposure to air pollution caused by wildfire smoke can cause irritation to the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. Longer-term exposure can lead to several chronic health conditions including severe asthma, heart disease, and lung cancer, among others.

People in Georgetown County with respiratory illnesses or other health concerns are encouraged to limit outdoor exposure until conditions have improved.