Wildfires in Canada: the cloud of smoke is reaching France.
Since this Monday, June 26th, the smoke resulting from the massive fires that have been devastating Canadian forests since May has reached several European countries, including France.
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What is happening in Canada?
Since the beginning of the year, Canada has been facing exceptionally violent wildfires, with over 7 million hectares already devastated by flames. Across the country, the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) has recorded 470 active fires, 244 of which are out of control.
The thick clouds of smoke emanating from these devastating fires have caused significant deterioration in air quality across the Atlantic Ocean. The United States and Norway have already been severely affected by these consequences, and unfortunately, France is the next country to suffer the effects.
Air quality in Europe is normally not impacted
The smoke from the fires in Canada has reached the Iberian Peninsula, as well as Ireland and the United Kingdom, and it will eventually pass through France, the Benelux countries, and Germany before heading east, according to statements by Mark Parrington, a scientist from the Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service (CAMS).
These particles will travel a distance of over 5,000 kilometers and will be mainly found at high altitudes, so it is unlikely that they will have a significant impact on air quality in Europe. However, some of these particles may descend closer to the ground and thus affect air quality.
For a few days, it will be possible to observe a sky that is paler than usual, with a “milky” appearance, as is the case in the city of Nantes on this Tuesday, June 27th.
However, the particle concentrations will not be as high as in New York and Montreal, which temporarily became the most polluted cities in the world for a few hours.
Are these smoke emissions from Canada dangerous to health?
These wildfire smoke emissions contain high concentrations of aerosols, which refers to suspended fine particles. They are composed, among other things, of carbon monoxide, a byproduct of incomplete combustion. This compound has an atmospheric lifetime of about one month, making it a precise indicator of smoke transport, as emphasized by the scientist.
The quantities of particles reaching us from Canada will be relatively low. However, the danger of ultrafine particles lies in their small size, which allows them to penetrate deep into our bodies by crossing blood barriers. They accumulate in our organs, particularly the heart, over the long term, increasing the risk of stroke (cerebrovascular accident or CVA), as well as in the brain, potentially raising the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
In the short term, these particles irritate our respiratory pathways, which have already been strained by previous peaks of pollution from ozone, fine particles, and pollen in recent months. This can promote the development of asthma, coughing, and even respiratory infections in the most vulnerable individuals. However, it is important to note that it is not the pollution coming from Canada itself that is dangerous, but rather the fact that it adds to our already excessive pollution.
Protecting yourself from fire smoke
In general, it is recommended to avoid going out during peak traffic hours, between 8 AM and 10 AM in the morning, as well as in the early and late afternoon, as these are the most polluted times of the day.
It is also preferable to limit car travel, as we are four times more exposed to fine particles inside our vehicles than when walking on the sidewalk or using a bicycle lane, and to keep a distance from traffic lanes. Ideally, rain would help reduce pollution levels.
It is advisable not to expose vulnerable individuals, such as pregnant women, newborns, or the elderly. From an individual standpoint, it is recommended to avoid intense physical activities and to stop exertion in case of respiratory or cardiovascular discomfort.
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