hazy sky in Grand Rapids
Grand Rapids and other areas of West Michigan registered some of the worst air quality in the world Tuesday. (Bridge photo by Arielle Hines-Glerum)

Air quality in Michigan is poor after haze from Canada wildfires moved into the Midwest. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy has issued a statewide air quality advisory through Wednesday.

This story also appeared in Bridge Michigan

Nearly all of Michigan is currently facing air pollution levels in the “unhealthy” or “very unhealthy” category. 

Jim Haywood, a senior meteorologist at the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, told Bridge Michigan the air pollution level is now high enough to affect all Michiganders, not just sensitive groups such as children, older adults and people with lung conditions.

“We’re giving this message to everybody now, not just people with pre-existing conditions: strive to stay indoors as much as you can,” Haywood says. 

Inhaling wildfire smoke can cause chest pain, induce asthma attacks and worsen chronic lung and heart conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The state’s air quality advisory is currently set to last through Wednesday. Experts expect new weather patterns to clear up the skies sometime on Thursday, according to Haywood.

West Michigan is being hit particularly hard by the smoke. As of 3 p.m. Tuesday, Grand Rapids registered an air quality index — a measure of air pollution — of 265. 

This index means the air pollution in Grand Rapids is worse than any major city in the world, according to a ranking by air quality technology company IQAir.

The smoke comes from the same wildfires that created a thick orange haze in New York City and other parts of the Northeast three weeks ago. 

Changing weather patterns now have winds pushing the wildfire smoke toward the Midwest.

Haywood says this year has been unprecedented in terms of poor air quality, as this is the first time the department has issued a smoke advisory and a statewide advisory in his 24 years working there.

“We’ve never had to issue a smoke advisory before; we’ve never issued a statewide advisory before,” said Haywood. “Hopefully, this is just an odd year out and we won’t see this again, but it’s been one for the record books.”

Besides staying indoors, Haywood says Michiganders can protect themselves by running a fan or air conditioning unit to get the air inside circulating through the home’s filtration system. 

Experts also recommend wearing a mask outdoors and keeping windows and doors closed.

You can also sign up for air quality alerts in your area using EnviroFlash

You can check air quality in your area here.

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