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Smoke in Toronto to get worse Thursday with air quality set to plummet

Toronto's air quality will get worse before it gets better as smoke from Canada's wildfires lingers in the city.

Forest fires burning in Quebec and Ontario have led to poor air quality in major cities in the U.S. and Canada, including New York, Ottawa, and Toronto.

An air quality warning from Environment Canada has been in effect since Monday and on Wednesday, Toronto reached level 7 on the national weather agency’s index, presenting a “high risk” to members of the public.

CP24 Meteorologist Bill Coulter said Thursday that smoke forecast models suggest Toronto’s air quality will begin to quickly deteriorate this morning.

“We will really start to see a deterioration of air quality and that will last through the late afternoon to about the dinner hour and then (there will be) a shift in wind directions,” he said on Thursday morning.

“We are looking at a period today from about 7 a.m. through late afternoon that is going to be much worse than yesterday.”

He said a change in wind direction this weekend along with consistent periods of rain should result in improved air quality.

“Today is going to be, I think, the worst we are going to get for this smoke, at least for the current period,” Coulter said.

Many Torontonians reported feeling an itchy or burning sensation in their eyes and throats after spending time outdoors over the past few days.

Environment Canada has warned that those with lung disease or heart disease, as well as older adults and young children, are at an increased risk of health effects caused by wildfire smoke.

“Stop outdoor activities and contact your health care provider if you or someone in your care experiences shortness of breath, wheezing (including asthma attacks), severe cough, dizziness or chest pains. Stay inside if you are feeling unwell and experiencing symptoms,” the national weather agency said.

The poor air quality has prompted many schools in the GTA to move recess indoors and cancel strenuous outdoor activities. City-run daycares have also suspended outdoor activity.

The City of Toronto has cancelled some of its outdoor recreation programs for Thursday and the Toronto Zoo says it is reducing its operating hours amid the smoky conditions.

Dr. John Granton, the head of respirology at the University Health Network, told CP24 Thursday that while some tight-fitting, high quality masks will help filter out some of the dangerous particles, the best advice is for people to stay indoors.

"Usually as the air quality index gets worse, the exposure pollutants in the air increases. It is not so much the stuff you taste, which can irritate your upper airway… but it is really those smaller particles and gases that get into the lower airways that cause the health problems," he said.

He said people with underlying lung conditions are at the greatest risk of adverse health effects.

"It is also unfortunately the individuals who are at risk in our society who can’t escape from it. So people who are homeless and don’t have access to sheltered space, can’t close their windows, don’t have air purifiers," he said. "The strongest recommendation is to stay indoors and avoid going outside unless you have to."

With files from CTV Toronto's Phil Tsekouras and CP24's Bryann Aguilar Top Stories


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