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NIH Record - 75th Anniversary - National Institutes of Health

Smoke Signals Poor Air Quality

NIH Worksites in D.C. Region Feel Effects of Wildfires in Canada

An aerial view of the smoke over main campus

Wildfire smoke blanketed NIH’s main campus, as seen from the top floor of MLP-9

Photo: Eric Bock

Smoke drifts into the Medical Center Metro Station

The haze seeped into the platform area of the Medical Center Metro Station

Photo: Erin Butler

Haze hangs over a parking lot on main campus

At 8:30 a.m. on June 8, the Clinical Research Center is in a fog in this photo taken from the Safra Lodge parking lot

Photo: Devon Valera

The sun rises in a hazy sky

An early morning view of the sun shown with a smoky haze in Frederick, Md.

Photo: Amber Snyder

NIH’ers in mid-Atlantic areas on June 7-8 likely noticed the hazy, smoky conditions that blanketed much of the eastern U.S., tingeing the sun an eerie red and making the outside air hazardous to breathe. The smoke was swept southward from more than 100 active wildfires in Quebec, Canada.

Employees on the Bethesda campus reported the palpable scent of smoke and hazy skies. The air quality index (AQI) peaked there around 220, which falls into the Code Purple “very unhealthy” category, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. It was the first time ever that the D.C. region recorded a purple code for fine particle pollution. At this level, health risks are elevated for the general public and people should avoid spending time outdoors.

The AQI measures the amount of pollution in the air. It is rated on a scale of 0-500, with levels below 100 deemed safe for the general public. The main component of wildfire smoke is fine particulate matter (PM2.5), tiny particles measuring less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter. These particles are so small that they can be inhaled deep into the lungs and can even pass into the bloodstream. 

To monitor the AQI in your area, visit—Amber Snyder

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