MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) – Smoke from the recent Canadian wildfires has been moving down the east coast rapidly. The haze is causing major health concerns in Northeastern cities like New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.
There is a slight haze in the air across the Lowcountry and local officials say the best way to protect yourself from the smoke is to prepare for it in advance.
From New York, to North Carolina, smoke from the Canadian wildfires continues to engulf the east coast, and the smoke could soon show up in the Lowcountry.
Charleston City officials are preparing for its arrival.
“We’re working with the National Weather Service,” City of Charleston’s emergency management director Benjamin Almquist said, “working with DHEC. Those are kind of our frontline agencies on predicting air quality for the near future.”
Almquist says they have already seen small amounts of smoke in the area.
“With the right atmospheric conditions,” he said, “it is possible to see the smoke; a little bit of a haze. That’s especially during the early mornings and later evenings when the angle of the sun kind of works in favor of that.”
And they’ve also noticed a shift in the city’s air quality.
“This morning,” Almquist said, “the EPA’s Air Quality Index did put us into the moderate category. That ranges from a score of 50 to 100, and last I checked. I think we came in at about 57, so we’re on the low-end of that.”
Officials say although that number is considered safe, it can be a concern for people who are sensitive to air quality issues.
“People with COPD,” Trident Medical Center emergency medicine physician Dr. Ibrahim Isa said, “asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis. Anybody with any preexisting lung disease is more at-risk for an inhalation injury from the smoke.”
Health experts say there are preventative measures people can take to protect themselves.
“If you have to go outside with the smoke,” Isa said, “the N95 masks actually do a good job of filtering out some of the particles that can irritate the lungs. You can go ahead and use your rescue inhaler.”
City officials say it’s unlikely the Lowcountry will experience dangerous air quality levels in the coming days, but they will continue to monitor the conditions closely.
“It’s more about just making sure that we’ve got information ready for the public,” Almquist said. “We’re not going to overreact, but at the same time, we’re going to make sure that the information that needs to get out, does get out.”
Charleston’s emergency management department says they will continue to update citizens on air quality conditions via social media.
Georgetown County has already issued an air quality alert due to the haze.