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As smoke from wildfires in Canada blankets the northeastern U.S., experts discuss air quality alert safety.
Were you hoping to finally be outside this week? You may still be able to get outdoors. 
As smoke from Canadian wildfires wafting south leads to record-breaking poor air quality alerts throughout the northeastern U.S., experts are weighing in on how safe it is to still be outside. Whether continuing with regular activities such as commuting to work, exercising, or gardening is advised depends on a handful of factors, including the air quality level. 
According to the Washington Post, air quality alerts range from orange (moderate or considered unhealthy for sensitive groups) to red (unhealthy), purple (very unhealthy), and maroon (hazardous). Below we break down what it all means and what is still safe to do outside. 
If your area is experiencing an alert, it may be best to take the vibe inside. Dr. Wynne Armand, a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and associate director of the MGH Center for the Environment and Health, told NBC that smoke from wildfires can make breathing hard for anyone, but especially young children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with asthma or other pre-existing respiratory conditions. 
When your area is classified as an orange zone, experts, as reported by the Washington Post, generally agree that you can continue with regular outdoor activities, including exercise, if you don’t belong to any of the high-risk groups. However, it’s understandable if you choose to skip your run or shorten it due to the current conditions. Michael Koehle, director of the Environmental Physiology Laboratory at the University of British Columbia, told the Washington Post that he advises aiming for about 30 minutes of exercise during this time. In the event that the air quality reaches the red zone, avoid engaging in long workouts outdoors. Koehle suggests moving your exercise routine inside entirely. 
Dr. Bob Lahita, director of the Institute for Autoimmune and Rheumatic Disease at St. Joseph’s Health, told CBS he recommends wearing a mask if you must venture outside during an air quality alert. Even though he said N95 masks are the best type to wear, just about anything will be better than nothing, even a scarf. “Put a scarf over your nose and mouth so that the particulate matter does not go into your lungs,” Lahita said. 
Not only do you have an excuse to shorten that run, but you also have an excuse to go later in the day. You may notice the air quality level is extremely high first thing in the morning, lowers by the afternoon, and starts rising again in the evening. Koehle told the Washington Post you should avoid outdoor activities before dawn and late at night because the smoke is closest to the Earth then.  
New Yorkers may be experiencing some relief Thursday, and the Washington, D.C., region through Baltimore may begin to see the clouds lift Friday, per the New York Times. Be advised, however, that the weather pattern may not fully break until Sunday. Before venturing outdoors, check your weather apps for real-time air quality updates. The outlet also notes that this is only the beginning of wildfire season in North America, so keep this advice top of mind.
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