Wildfires - Photo by Jeff Head via Flickr

The smoke from ongoing wildfires on the East Coast can potentially affect the air quality of Midwestern states, including Ohio and Michigan.

Smoke from West Coast wildfires has spread to parts of the East Coast, according to The New York Times. As the end of 2020 draws near, COVID-19 isn’t the only concern for the country. If the smoke settles, Bowling Green residents could have cause for concern.

Wildfires pop up every year in western states, mainly California. But it’s rare to see smoke from these fires travel to the other side of the country, Heather Pollauf, a meteorologist for 13abc, said.

The smoke is thousands of feet in the air over states like Ohio and Michigan.

According to Pollauf, the smoke isn’t too much of a concern right now because it mixes with clean air as it makes its way east via the jet stream.

The particles that reached states like Ohio are small and dispersed. While the smoke isn’t a concern, the possibility for smoke particles to reach ground level could pose potential health risks.

Those at higher risk would be children, people with preexisting conditions and elderly people.

“The particles can become embedded in the lungs and if the exposure is prolonged enough, it can have an impact on those who have asthma and COPD,” Lauren Maziarz, assistant professor and nurse, said.

A major factor is time exposure, and the real danger is posed to the people out west, Maziarz said.

If the smoke settles, those with pre-existing conditions could experience symptoms like irritation and inflammation, especially if they are outside and exercising.

“Anytime there is poor air quality, breathing becomes even harder for me. Generally, when my symptoms are aggravated, my chest starts to feel tight and I’m unable to take a deep breath,” Madalyn Hynes, veterinary nursing student, said.

The wildfires are just one effect of climate change’s impact on the environment. According to Pollauf, Northern Ohio could see a decrease in temperature of a few degrees. Another effect of the smoke is the suppression of rain-producing clouds.

Even though the smoke is not visible at the ground level, smoke and other pollution can cause changes to the weather.  It is recommended for anyone with breathing difficulties living in places with poor air quality to wear face masks.

As firefighters continue to battle the blaze, the East Coast and the Midwest remain under watch for any concerns.

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