The megafires that devastated Canadian forests have created a huge ash cloud. And the ocean current that settled over the Atlantic carried the smoke of these huge fires to Europe. Arrivals on the European continent began on Monday. “Smoke from the fires in Quebec reaches the mid-Atlantic and is partly absorbed by a cold front that is approaching Brittany in a narrow band,” explains the French storm and tornado observatory Keraunos.
In modeling for the coming days, the European Earth monitoring program Copernicus showed the movements of the ash cloud until Thursday June 29th. Ireland, the United Kingdom, then France, Portugal and Spain would be affected.
Mark Parrington, director of Copernicus, spoke on Twitter of “significant smoke” from Canada.
Montreal, the most polluted city in the world
Air quality in Canada is so bad that as of Monday, June 26, Montreal was ranked as the most polluted city in the world, according to IQAir, a Swiss company that provides live data on the world’s major cities. The fine dust concentrations are so high that several major sports competitions had to be canceled on Sunday. The mayor of Montreal also urged the population to carry out activities indoors, avoid outdoor physical activities, close the doors and windows of houses and stop air exchangers.
In Canada “a danger to everyone”
Consists of various gases and particles – ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and fine particles (PM2.5) – “Smoke from forest fires poses a danger to everyone, but especially to young children, pregnant women, smokers, the elderly, people who work or exercise outdoors, and people who are already affected by the disease or have chronic conditions.” “Health problems such as lung or heart disease or diabetes,” the Canadian government specified in a press release on the health effects of wildfires.
A 2021 study published in the journal Nature also points out that PM2.5 pollution caused by wildfires may be more toxic than PM2.5 particles caused by other PM2.5 sources. These fumes would result in a 1.3 to 10% increase in hospitalizations for respiratory illnesses.
Alarm at the beginning of June in New York
At the beginning of June we remember the apocalyptic images of New York drowning in the cloud of smoke from Canada. President Joe Biden also urged Americans to exercise extreme caution: “It is important that Americans facing dangerous air pollution, especially those with health conditions, listen to local authorities to protect themselves and their families,” according to IQAir New York was also the most polluted city in the world for a few hours.
Vigilance is required in Europe
Does the ash cloud expected in Europe and France this week pose a health risk? Although the effects of these fumes are difficult to quantify, the presence of particulate matter PM10 and especially PM2.5 requires us to remain vigilant. Due to their small size, these PM2.5 microparticles can penetrate deep into the lungs. According to monitoring conducted by Public Health France, “an increase of 10 µg/m3 PM2.5 was associated with a 15% increase in the risk of non-accidental all-cause mortality.”
As for the cloud coming from Canada, the impact on human health is expected to be far less dangerous than in North America. They could stay aloft without significantly affecting air quality.
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