Air quality in Detroit is second-worst in U.S. with all of Southeast Michigan under advisory

All of Southeast Michigan is under an air quality alert following weeks of wildfires up north and in Canada.

The Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy issued an Air Quality Action Day Advisory for Wednesday through Thursday for the entire southeastern portion of the state, as well as several counties beyond the coastline and in mid-Michigan. 

Elevated levels of particulate matter from fires that have been pushing smoke into the atmosphere can make it difficult to breathe for those with respiratory issues. 

The municipalities with unhealthy air qualities alerts include: Midland, Bay, Huron, Saginaw, Tuscola, Sanilac, Shiawassee, Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Livingston, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw, Wayne, Lenawee, Monroe.

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The cities include Midland, Bay City, Bad Axe, Saginaw, Caro, Sandusky, Owosso, Flint, Lapeer, Port Huron, Howell, Pontiac, Warren, Ann Arbor, Detroit, Adrian, and Monroe.

Poor air quality in Detroit

According to the website IQAIR, which tracks air quality, Detroit has the second-worst in the country, behind only New York City. 

Delhi in India, Hanoi in Vietnam, and Tel Aviv-Yafo in Israel all had worse air quality than Detroit. The rankings are based on the website's air quality index which scored Detroit at a 156, which classifies as "Unhealthy."

According to the National Weather Service, the smoke passing through the atmosphere in Detroit has pollutants that could be dangerous to inhale for sensitive populations including groups that have asthma. 

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Some hourly concentrations could see the pollutant alert raised to "Unhealthy" for all groups. 

Canada wildfires

The smoke blanketing the region is originating from Quebec and Ontario, which have been burning for several weeks.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said hazy skies, reduced visibility and the odor of burning wood are likely, and that the smoke will linger for a few days in northern states.

"It's not unusual for us to get fire smoke in our area. It's very typical in terms of northwest Canada," said Darren Austin, a meteorologist and senior air quality specialist with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. But, usually, the smoke has been aloft and hasn't affected people's health, he said.

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The Quebec-area fires are big and relatively close, about 500 to 600 miles (roughly 800 to 970 kilometers) away from Rhode Island. 

Jay Engle, a National Weather Service meteorologist based in Upton, Long Island, said the wind trajectory that allowed smoke and hazy conditions to be seen in the New York City area could continue for the next few days. Of course, he said, the main driver of conditions is the fires themselves. If they diminish, the haze would too.

How to keep safe

It's a good time to put off that yard work and outdoor exercise. If you go out, consider wearing an N95 mask to reduce your exposure to pollutants.

Stay inside, keeping your doors, windows and fireplaces shut. It's recommended that you run the air conditioning on a recirculation setting.

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"If you have filters on your home HVAC system, you should make sure they’re up to date and high quality," Hill said. "Some people, particularly those with underlying lung disease, or heart disease, should consider investing in air purifiers for their homes."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.