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Poor air quality in Waterloo region and Guelph will continue into the weekend: Environment Canada

There's high levels of air pollution in Waterloo region and Wellington County as smoke plumes from wildfires burning in Quebec and northeastern Ontario continue to blow into the region, Environment Canada says.

Both the public and Catholic school boards in Waterloo region postponed their regional track and field events scheduled for Wednesday.

The public school board said it's also advised schools to keep windows and doors closed and continue running HEPA filters.

The smoke from the wildfires, which is blanketing the eastern half of Ontario and parts of the United States, will likely continue into the weekend, according to Environment Canada.

Local air quality is expected to worsen Thursday afternoon.

There are currently more than 100 fires burning in Quebec and more than 50 burning in northeastern Ontario.

A number of burn bans are in place across Waterloo region and Wellington County.

WHAT IS THE AIR QUALITY IN KITCHENER AND GUELPH?

Air quality in Guelph deteriorated into Environment Canada’s “high risk” zone around mid-day Wednesday, registering a level 7 on the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

In Kitchener, the day's worst air pollution was also seen between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m., but only reached a level 6, or "moderate risk."

Air quality is expected to stay at around a level 6 in both municipalities until about 9 p.m. Wednesday when it’s forecast to improve slightly to a level 5.

The view from the CTV News Kitchener tower on Tuesday, June 6 shows a haze over the skyline in Waterloo region as wildfires burn in northeastern Ontario and Quebec. (CTV)

Environment Canada says air pollution in Kitchener and Guelph could rise to a level 8 Thursday afternoon.

On Tuesday, the AQHI briefly reached a level 8 in Kitchener around 4 p.m. before slowly dropping through overnight and into Wednesday.

STAYING SAFE IN SMOKY CONDITIONS

Seniors, young children, people who are pregnant and anyone with lung disease, asthma or heart disease should reduce or reschedule strenuous outdoor activities, Environment Canada says.

As long as the air quality remains in the moderate risk zone, the general population may continue with those activities, but should stop if symptoms like coughing and throat irritation develop.

Hazy smoke hovering over Puslinch Lake on June 6, 2023. (Submitted)

“Stop outdoor activities and contact your health care provider if you or someone in your care experiences shortness of breath, wheezing (including asthma attacks), severe cough, dizziness or chest pains. Stay inside if you are feeling unwell and experiencing symptoms,” Environment Canada’s special air quality statement for the region says.

Parents like Sarah Leighton were keeping their kids inside on Wednesday, opting instead for an indoor playground at Play a Latte in Kitchener.

“I have two kids that have asthma, and then I'm pregnant, and my 9 month old is susceptible to everything, so this is the safest space to come," Leighton told CTV Kitchener.

The local business is offering a 20 per cent discount on indoor playdates until June 17.

“I figured it's probably not good for kids, and we have the indoor space available, so I figured why not create a discount, make it a little easier for parents to come in and play," said Play a Latte owner Ronak Patel.

Haze from wildfires burning in northeastern Ontario and Quebec can be seen in Waterloo on June 6, 2023. (Alison Sandstrom/CTV News)

Environment Canada advises keeping indoor air clean by closing doors and windows, as long as it’s not too hot inside the home. An air purifier with a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter can also be used to filter wildfire smoke.

The weather agency says if you must spend time outdoors, a well-fitted respirator type mask, like an N95, can help reduce your risk of exposure to the fine particles in smoke.

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