Wildfire-Fueled Air Pollution Returns, Reaching Dangerous Levels in NC

Urgent Health Alert

Climate-fueled wildfires burning in Canada are currently producing massive amounts of smoke and emitting unhealthy levels of particle pollution into the air. This air pollution has made it all the way to North Carolina, where the Department of Environmental Quality has declared a Code Orange Air Quality Action Day for much of North Carolina today.

We strongly urge everyone to take precautions to limit your exposure and protect your health for as long as these conditions persist. Be careful while outdoors these next few days, especially if you have respiratory issues or are from another sensitive group.

Vulnerable populations include:

Who Is Affected?

The Code Orange Alert currently covers much of central, western, and eastern North Carolina, including Charlotte, the Triangle, the Fayetteville metro area, the Appalachian Mountains, and the High Peaks region. A Code Orange Alert means that the current air quality is dangerous for members of high-risk or particularly sensitive groups, such as the elderly, children, pregnant women, those with heart disease, and those with asthma and other pre-existing respiratory conditions.

nc air quality map july 17 2023

How to Protect Your Health

If you live in one of the impacted areas, try to limit your time spent outdoors as much as possible over the next few days, or avoid it altogether if you can.

Other steps you can take include:

  • Use indoor air filters if you have them.
  • Keep all windows and doors closed.
  • If you do need to briefly go outdoors, wear at least an N-95 respirator mask.
  • Avoid strenuous activities outdoors, especially during the hottest parts of the days (2pm – 7pm). 
  • Keep an eye on the Air Quality Index (AQI) and our real-time statewide air monitor network to get updated air quality information for your area.
  • Limit outdoor time for household pets.

Particulate matter and wildfire smoke are serious threats to our health. Please take precautions to protect yourself and your families.

Calls for Better Public Health Preparedness

Following the Canadian wildfires earlier this month, there are increasing calls for better public health preparedness and messaging based on evidence that wildfires and smoke events are becoming more frequent and intense.

Michael Hadley, a researcher at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, advocates for “a broader push in medical schools to understand environmental health issues such as wildfire risks.”