With a record 120 million Americans under air quality advisories last week, state and local health departments in Maryland have been encouraging caution and preparation.
While air quality alerts are not new to the mid-atlantic region, extended periods of caution, due specifically to wildfire smoke, are not a standard experience for most Maryland residents. So far, air quality alerts lasting longer than 2-3 days due to wildfire smoke have occurred twice this season in Maryland. Recent reports show warnings and precautions are likely here to stay for awhile longer.
Local health departments across the state have been keeping the public updated on current air quality alerts. Posts include day-to-day changes, what the warnings mean, where to get resources, and how residents can protect themselves. These precautions are being taken following recent reports that the public health concerns due to wildfire smoke continue to be a real and present threat.
According to CNN last week, “more than a third of the US population was under air quality alerts, covering more than a dozen states from the Midwest to the East Coast, prompting officials to call on the public to take safety precautions just weeks after similar wildfire smoke blanketed the Northeast.” In a Herald-Mail report, meteorologist Cody Ledbetter of the National Weather Service stated:
“Unless those wildfires get put out by rain or firefighting methods … there’s going to be smoke around and there’s the potential that it makes its way into our region, depending on the way the wind direction is moving.”
The Herald-Mail article went on to cite data from USA Today claiming that, “the last time fires this severe ravaged Canada, smoke lingered over the U.S. for the full fire season.” If prior circumstances are any indication, smoke could be present over Maryland until October.
See alerts and mask distribution efforts flooding county social media handles:
The Maryland Dept. Of The Environment has issued a Code Red Air Quality Alert. N95, KN95 and FFP2 masks reduce particles you breathe in. Even with a mask, consider limiting time outdoors during air quality alerts. Learn more: https://t.co/PQzd7fy9YZ pic.twitter.com/53cNiJVarR
— HarCo Health Dept. (@HarCoHealthDept) June 29, 2023
The air quality is slightly better for today and is expected to improve over the weekend. A Code Orange Air Quality is in effect, which means it’s unhealthy for sensitive groups and recommended you limit outdoor activities. pic.twitter.com/PwbtcCUt6J
— Anne Arundel Health (@AAHealth) June 30, 2023
Today’s Air Quality Forecast is Code Red. Here are recommendations related to the air quality alert. As a reminder, FREE N95 mask distribution continues at county libraries. List of branch locations ⬇️https://t.co/MwAsyrLWJx@kishadavismd @mcfrsPIO @MontCoExec @MoCoCouncilMD pic.twitter.com/6XIa1aKt0z
— Montgomery County DHHS (@MoCoDHHS) June 29, 2023
📢 BIG announcement, Prince George’s County! We’re expanding our mask giveaway to SEVEN locations! Stop by the one closest to you TODAY to grab your FREE mask. Let’s keep our community safe together. Spread the word and join us! For more information go to: https://t.co/lh9rUrsGEI pic.twitter.com/VT6gSDiRjF
— Prince George’s County Health Dept. (@PGCHealth) June 9, 2023
Not only have social media handles in the counties been a valuable medium to share updates, but state resources are using them as well, including the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) in conjunction with the Maryland Department of Health. A current air quality monitor is available on the MDE website with features including haze cameras, threat level indicators, and wind profilers. Some local news sources have even been test running tutorials, showing residents how to create a do-it-yourself, EPA approved air filter to reduce wildfire smoke inside homes.
AIR QUALITY ALERT: UNHEALTHY air quality due to wildfire smoke expected statewide Thursday, meaning everyone may experience health effects and should limit their outdoor activity. For air quality forecasts go to https://t.co/x3uS9hvqQq pic.twitter.com/vjzHgrUitk
— MD Environment (@MDEnvironment) June 28, 2023