Forest fires and air quality

The smoke produced by wildfires can affect the air quality. The fire doesn’t necessarily have to be close for the air to smell like smoke, or for the sky to be hazy. It depends on weather conditions, such as the wind that pushes the smoke.

Are you or a loved one not feeling well?
Call Info-Santé at 811, option 1.

Stay informed.

A smoky smell and hazy skies are signs that air quality is affected by wildfires.

Since the situation evolves depending on fires and weather conditions, stay informed by listening to the radio, checking the Facebook page of your community and that of the NRBHSS, or contacting local authorities.

How is the air quality in Nunavik? 

The SOPFEU’s website contains all the information you need on forest fire prevention and the current situation (ban on open fires, fire danger, active fires, etc.).

Air quality map. Currently only for some communities

FIRESMOKE CANADA MAP: High-resolution interactive forecasts of hourly, daily average, and daily maximum concentrations of PM2.5 smoke particles at ground level from forest fires.

Adapt your activities based on air quality

Adapt your activities, paying particular attention to the symptoms you might be experiencing. Everyone is different. People who are more sensitive may experience symptoms and have to adapt their activities at lower concentrations than those suggested.

Air quality is considered good if the level of fine particles is below 30 PM2.5 (µg/m3).

In this case, enjoy your usual outdoor and indoor activities.

If air quality is poor, here are the recommendations for outdoor activities, depending on air quality.

Consult this chart for level of particles:

PM2,5 (µg/m3)
(1h) 

Air quality

Outdoor activities

0-30 

Good

Enjoy the outdoor activities as usual.

30-60 

Bad for people at higher risk

If you are at risk, consider reducing or rescheduling strenuous activities outdoors, especially if you are experiencing symptoms.

If you are part of the general population (between 5 and 64 years of age), consider reducing or rescheduling strenuous activities outdoors, especially if you are experiencing symptoms.

60-100 

Bad for the whole population  

If you are a person at risk (children under 5 years of age, pregnant women, people aged 65 and over, people who have a respiratory or heart disease), reduce or reschedule strenuous activities outdoors, especially if you are experiencing symptoms.

If you are part of the general population (between 5 and 64 years old), reduce or reschedule strenuous activities outdoors.

100-250  

  

Very bad for the whole population

If you are at risk (children under 5 years of age, pregnant women, people aged 65 and over, people who have a respiratory or heart disease), reschedule strenuous activities outdoors, especially if you are experiencing symptoms.

If you are part of the general population (between 5 and 64 years old), avoid strenuous activities outdoors. Focus on indoor activities.

+ de 250  

Dangerous 

Plan indoor activities.

Effects on health

During periods of heavy smoke, all Nunavimmiut are at risk, regardless of age or health condition. The people most vulnerable to the effects of smoke are:

  • Infants and children under 5 years old;
  • Pregnant women;
  • Elders;
  • People with chronic (e.g., cancer, diabetes), pulmonary (e.g., asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis), or heart disease;
  • People working outside or engaging in intense physical activity outdoors.

Some people may experience:

  • watery eyes;
  • itchy eyes and throat;
  • mild coughing;
  • sinus irritation;
  • headaches.

Call Info-Santé at 811, option 1, if some symptoms persist or worsen.

However, smoke may have a greater impact on some, for example people with asthma and/or with heart or respiratory problems, such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. The following symptoms are less common but more severe and require a medical evaluation. GO TO YOUR CLSC IF YOU NOTICE: 

  • new or exacerbated shortness of breath;
  • wheezing (including asthma attacks);
  • severe coughing;
  • dizziness;
  • chest pains;
  • heart palpitations.

What should be done to avoid being affected?

  • Close windows at home and in living environments, including daycare centres, schools, and workplaces, and avoid using ventilation systems with outside air exchangers;
  • Limit outdoor activities (sports and work);
  • Make sure that isolated, sick or elderly relatives also avoid exposure to outdoor air;
  • If you suffer from respiratory problems (e.g. asthma, COPD), make sure you have access to your medication and follow the action plan discussed with your healthcare professional.

For people who must be outside (for work, travel, or any outdoor task):

  • Limit your outside activity (postpone non-essential tasks to a later date, or reduce them as much as possible);
  • Take some breaks indoors.
An outdoor event is planned. What should be done?

If an outdoor event is planned, it is up to the people organizing the event to decide whether it should be maintained or cancelled/rescheduled. They must notify participants of the poor air quality so that they can decide if they still wish to attend or not. It is important to keep an eye on vulnerable people such as the elderly and children who decide to attend the event anyway.

Should the N95 mask be worn for protection?

The best way to protect yourself when the air quality is poor is to stay inside.


Except for workers subject to respiratory protection measures, the decision to wear N95 masks is an individual choice. 

If you must be outside, N95 masks may be a measure of comfort worth considering. A well-fitting N95 mask can reduce the respiratory symptoms and discomforts caused by smoke (coughing, irritation, and sore throat). However, the N95 mask may cause some discomfort to the person wearing it due to humidity or heat.

You can get a mask at your CLSC.

Surgical blue masks or fabric masks are not useful because they do not filter the micro-particles in the air, nor do water-soaked cloths.

Usefull links for workers

Great Heat

In case of extreme heat in addition to poor air quality, consult recommandations on this page.

If the temperature inside is too high, you can temporarily open the windows during the coolest part of the day (usually at night) to reach a tolerable temperature (< 31°C), even if there is smoke.

Resources

Psychological support

If needed, psychosocial help is available from your CLSC.