Current Canada fires bring back memories of air and noise pollution research

The East River and Downtown Brooklyn as seen from Lower Manhattan on June 7, 2023.
Photo credit: SnowFire. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

Fires burning in Canada over the last couple weeks have turned some American skies orange, as waves of smoke settled in the eastern United States. The haze disrupted air travel and is causing some of the worst air quality readings a few metropolitan cities have registered in decades.

These fires reminded me of a time about twenty years ago when a study I was involved with was intruded on by Canadian fires polluting air at the sites we were examining. The paper, “Airport-related air pollution and noise,” by Cohen, B. S., Bronzaft, A. L, et al., was published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene in 2008.

Readers may know of my research on the adverse effects of aircraft noise on individuals impacted by nearby airports. I have also written, to a lesser extent, on airport-related air pollution. The opportunity to examine both air pollution and noise was especially welcomed. We thank former Congressman Joseph Crowley for securing federal funding for this study which included grants from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

You can readily imagine how disturbed we were that our data collection was disrupted by air pollution. When writing about airborne particulate matter concentrations in and outside the study participants’ homes, we stated that “the second and larger peak … occurred because the region was blanketed with smoke from forest fires in Quebec, Canada.”

I paid close attention to the discussion this past week about how fires from Canada affected the air New Yorkers breathe. Yet, I did not hear about similar events in the past, nor did I hear that Canada and the U.S. were meeting to work towards reducing catastrophic fires. I also wonder if air measurements were taken in New York City homes to assess the impacts of smoke in those homes.

I hope readers share the information I provided, especially the questions I raised about how air pollution can cross borders and affect us all.

Share this article:

Article Categories

Search Articles