The air quality in Seattle and Portland are now among the worst in the world, surpassing Beijing in pollution, new reports claim.
Hundreds of wildfires currently raging across western North America have brought hazy skies and locked residents inside their homes in affected cities this week.
Seattle, Portland Air Quality Dips
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the air quality in Seattle last week posted a reading of 170. Meanwhile, the air quality in Portland measured 178 as of Tuesday, Aug. 21. Both are considered unhealthy.
In comparison, the air quality in Beijing, which had the reputation of having the worst air pollution in the world, reported an air quality index or AQI of around 30 this week. Last month, the capital city of China had an average of 44 — the seventh lowest average since 2008.
Unfortunately, experts warn that poor air poor quality in Seattle and Portland will likely worsen in the coming months.
"This is definitely the worst air quality we've seen since we started measuring 20 years ago," said Lando Bosisio, a communications officer from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. "Obviously we can't predict the future, and we can't say with any certainty this will happen every year, but with climate change, yes, this is becoming an ongoing trend."
Other experts agree. Andrew Wineke, a spokesman for the Washington State Department of Ecology, predicts that climate change will cause the number of wildfires to double across the West in the coming decades.
"What's going to happen to all that smoke?" he asked.
Authorities are urging the public to stay inside their homes in the meantime. The thick, hazy smoke from wildfires has caused local events to cancel as the air quality continues to pose health threats to residents.
People who have heart and lung diseases are encouraged to limit prolonged and heavy exertion activities outside. Pregnant women, children, and the elderly should be especially mindful about getting exposed to poor air quality.
Residents are also told to close their windows and run air conditioning to decrease the risk of health problems due to the air pollution.
Experts also warned about air purifiers and face masks to combat the dipping air quality. Jennifer Flynt of the Department of Environmental Quality in Oregon said that masks are often readily available, but are not exactly effective against the health risks of pollution. Meanwhile, air purifiers can sometimes generate Ozone as it cleans the air, which can also be harmful to the health.