Due to wildfires in the territory and the smoke that comes as a result, air quality in several Northwest Territory-based communities, such as Yellowknife and Norman Wells, are at levels of ‘moderate risk’ to ‘high risk’ (according to the Government of Canada’s Air Quality Health Index).

For Yellowknife, from last night to Friday morning, air quality levels were calculated to be at around ‘5’ to ‘6’, while now holding steady at ‘5’.

For Norman Wells, air quality spiked to high risk after 9 a.m. this morning

On top of the two communities mentioned above, other areas affected in the NWT include Fort Simpson, Fort Providence, Fort Good Hope, Jean Marie River, Kakisa, Tulita and Wrigley.

Regarding how air quality levels are measured, low risk is any level from ‘1’ to ‘3’, moderate risk are made up of levels ‘4’ to ‘6’, high risk are levels ‘7’ to ‘10’, and very high risk is anything beyond ‘10’.

As air quality is currently at different levels of risk for the various communities, recommendations for members of the population who are at risk (people with heart and lung conditions are most affected by air pollution) are to “consider reducing or rescheduling strenuous activities outdoors if you are experiencing symptoms.”

As for members of the population not at risk, there is “no need to modify your usual outdoor activities unless you experience symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation.”

According the the 24-hour forecast for Yellowknife, air quality should return to low risk levels by tomorrow morning, whereas Norman Wells will remain in the ‘moderate risk’ range until tomorrow afternoon.

A special air quality statement was released regarding the situation on the weather section of Government of Canada website.

“Wildfire smoke is causing poor air quality and reduced visibility, due to elevated values of fine particulate matter,” reads the statement. “Air quality and visibility due to wildfire smoke can fluctuate over short distances and can vary considerably from hour to hour.”

“Individuals may experience symptoms such as increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches or shortness of breath. Children, seniors and those with cardiovascular or lung disease, such as asthma, are especially at risk. If you, or someone in your care, develop symptoms, reduce strenuous outdoors activities where ever possible until the air quality improves. “

Those feeling unwell and/or experiencing symptoms are asked to contact their health care provider for advice.

“If you or those in your care are exposed to wildfire smoke, consider taking extra precautions to reduce your exposure. Wildfire smoke is a constantly-changing mixture of particles and gases which includes many chemicals that can harm your health. For more details, please consult www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/air-quality-health-index/wildfire-smoke.html.”

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