Photos of smoke-filled New York over the past few days have left citizens in shock as they cope with the unfamiliar problem of extreme air pollution.
Authorities have issued air quality alerts for the East Coast due to heavy air pollution from smoke from Canadian wildfires, and individuals have once more donned N95 face masks, which have been mostly forgotten about since the pandemic.
People post images of the "apocalyptic" sight and advice on how to reduce health hazards on social media.
These scenes are uncommon in the US outside of West Coast states like California, which regularly face wildfires, CNN reported.
Air pollution in other parts of the world is not a new concept as it has become a global issue, with India being one of the most polluted cities in the world, reducing life expectancy by up to nine years and contributing to 1.6 million fatalities.
New Delhi is heavily polluted due to vehicle emissions, coal-fired power plants, and burning agricultural fields, which can lead to health problems such as asthma and heart disease.
Air pollution in Asia has caused disruptions to daily life, especially during the stubble-burning season, leading to dozens of students falling ill and schools closing.
New York’s PM2.5 levels peaked Wednesday afternoon, measuring 303.3 micrograms per cubic meter whereas IQAir's "good" range is 5 micrograms per cubic meter.
Moreover, forest fires in Indonesia and Chiang Mai, Thailand, have caused massive respiratory issues, leading to hospital wards being so full they had to turn some patients away.
According to CNN, the 2013 "airpocalypse" in Beijing caused global media attention and China launched a sweeping anti-pollution campaign, shutting down coal mines and coal plants, setting up air monitoring stations, and rolling out new regulations.
However, Beijing's improved air quality in 2021 is an encouraging sign, but there are still challenges to overcome, even in cities with good air.
Based on recent studies, scientists suggest that "human-caused" carbon pollution from fossil fuel and cement companies is causing wildfires in the US and Canada.
After consulting with US President Joe Biden on how to put out the Quebec fires, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a statement on Wednesday referencing "the devastating impacts of climate change."
"The perfect image for how world leaders have failed to stop the climate crisis," tweeted scientist and climate advocate Lucky Tran on Wednesday, under an image of the United Nations building in New York that is barely visible through orange smog.
Adding in a separate post, he said: "Today New Yorkers and East Coasters are experiencing this impact first hand."
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