Smoke from the wildfires out west is moving east toward Fargo and is changing the air quality.

“Wildfire smokes can result in significant air quality impacts to public health due to the presence of fine particulate matter (PM). PM in the air is likely to cause a variety of respiratory illnesses like asthma, chronic bronchitis and other lung diseases,” Shafiqur Rahman, associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, said.

The Air Quality Index (AQI) in Fargo is at 51 fine particles and is in the moderate range.

“Wildfire smoke can be seen from distances, and visibility may be reduced significantly,” Rahman said. “It can also irritate eyes and most vulnerable people are elderly and children with heart disease, chronic pulmonary disease or asthma.”

The higher the AQI the more people that need to take protective steps.

The Minnesota Department of Health website says to limit time spent outdoors, keep doors and windows closed and run air conditioning in recirculating mode only. They also recommend limiting indoor activities that can increase indoor air pollution like burning candles and incense, vacuuming, and frying or broiling.

“People can smell smoke from wildfires. Avoid activities outside during wildfires, especially people with heart and lung disease,” Rahman said.

Manitoba’s government website recommends that people with these conditions “should consider taking precaution when smoke conditions are light to moderate.” The website also explains, “This is usually indicated by a smoke odor and haziness or visibility that is less than eight km.”

Heavy smoke conditions are when visibility is less than four kilometers and when those conditions last for more than a day.

“Depending on the wildfires season, frequency and weather conditions, it may affect air quality,” Rahman said. “Wildfires may also cause haze and reduces visibility and the smoke level can vary significantly depending on the weather.”

“I saw that the sun looked orange and partially covered by foggy air, an indication of poor air quality,” Sreekala Bajwa, professor and department chair of agricultural and biosystems engineering, said.

It is recommended that people with heart and lung conditions watch the news for current air quality conditions.

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