Jun 7, 2023 - Economy

Eastern U.S. economic regions contend with unfamiliar air-quality challenges

The Manhattan skyine shrouded in smoke from Canada wildfires at sunrise in Jersey City, New Jersey

The Manhattan skyline shrouded in smoke from Canada wildfires at sunrise in Jersey City, N.J., on June 7. Photo: Yuki Iwamura/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Smoke from hundreds of active wildfires continues to billow down from Canada this week, threatening air quality in major economic regions of the U.S.

Why it matters: States in the Northeast to mid-Atlantic are experiencing for the first time what many in the Western U.S. and the world have faced for years, and in some cases decades.

  • In California, when the air quality index exceeds 151, employers are required to provide respiratory protection equipment.
  • In New York City, where the AQI has been over 370 today in some boroughs, there are no such OSHA requirements, journalist Susanna Vogel noted online.

Zoom in: New York City Mayor Eric Adams recommended people limit outdoor activities and established a hotline for the air quality situation.

  • Popular restaurants including The Waverly Inn and Cote moved outdoor reservations indoors or rescheduled clients, Axios confirmed via phone.
  • Google, which has dealt with scenarios like this in the past, told East Coast employees to stay home, according to CNBC.

The big picture: Smoke from wildfires — which numerous studies show are worsening due in part to climate change — can cause serious health complications when present in high concentrations at ground level.

What they’re saying: "We suggest people to continually run their HVAC system so that [they’re] continually filtering out the air,” Kelsey Hei, senior application engineer with 3M, tells Axios.

  • While each home’s systems are different, she also noted that a MERV 13 air filter will "provide a lot of particle capture, but still allow air to flow through."

What we’re watching: Smoke is expected to remain an issue in the same areas hit today through Saturday, with additional episodes possible in the coming weeks given the severity of the fires.

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