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Bad air quality in Chicago: how long will it last?

Large swaths of the Midwest are being blanketed by wildfire smoke blowing down from Canada making the air unhealthy. Here’s when conditions will improve.

Chicago choking on bad air
Jon DurrUSA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

Residents across the upper Midwest from Iowa to Pennsylvania, Kentucky to Michigan are contending with “unhealthy” to “hazardous” air quality caused by smoke from raging wildfires in Canada. On Tuesday, Chicago took the unwanted title of the city with the worst air quality in the world according to Swiss-based IQAir.

The Windy City will remain under a code red warning, indicating a severe level of air pollution and people are advised to take protective measures, for Wednesday. Conditions are forecast to improve slightly the following day to code orange “unhealthy for sensitive groups” with the air quality moving to moderate by Friday and through the weekend according to the NowCast AQI.

What precautions should people take for bad air quality?

The American Lung Association recommends that you should check the air quality forecast and be aware that conditions can change rapidly. You can check the Environmental Protection Agency’s NowCast AQI for the latest air quality readings in your area.

The AQI index goes from 0 to 500. The higher the number, the worse the level of air pollution. The index is divided into six color-coded levels. Green (0-50) and yellow (51-100) are the lowest, followed by orange, red, purple and maroon (301-500). Above 100, those who are sensitive such as the elderly, children and those with health conditions should take precautions. Above 150 is considered unhealthy, 200 is considered very unhealthy and over 300 is hazardous.

When conditions are considered unhealthy, stay inside with the windows and doors shut. Avoid creating air pollutants indoors, like smoking or frying foods, and use an air conditioner with a filter or go to someplace with filtered air.

You should avoid exercising outdoors as well as limiting outdoor activities. When outdoors, you should wear a N95 face mask or respirator mask which covers both your mouth and nose. Using a basic mask or bandana will not filter out the fine particles in the air that can be harmful to your health.