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Michigan air quality poor due to wildfires, millions under advisory

hazy skyline in Detroit
City of Detroit skyline on June 7, 2023. (BridgeDetroit photo by Orlando Bailey)
  • The National Weather Service issued an air quality advisory from Monroe to Midland
  • One website ranked Detroit as having one of the worst air qualities in the world Wednesday
  • The haze is from Canada fires. Whitmer says she's monitoring situation

June 29: Air quality warning pushed to Friday in Michigan; doctors urge outdoor limits
June 28: When will the smoke clear in Michigan? What you need to know in the meantime
June 27: Michigan under statewide advisory as Canada wildfire smoke hits Midwest
June 12: Fire danger eases in much of Michigan; Upper Peninsula still at high risk
June 8: Michigan bills would give farmers ‘right to repair’ tractors, equipment

Millions of Michigan residents are under an air quality advisory on Wednesday because of wildfire smoke from Canada, while one index indicated the City of Detroit had some of the world's worst air pollution.

Several communities in Michigan have air quality indexes exceeding 150, which is considered unhealthy, and the National Weather Service has issued an air quality alert until 12 a.m. Friday for much of the southern Lower Peninsula.

One website, IQAir, listed Detroit behind only Delhi, India, and Hanoi Vietnam, as having the worst air pollution in the world as of 11 a.m. Wednesday. Air quality is poor from the Midwest to the East Coast down to the Carolinas because of the fires.


There has been a slight haze for weeks in southeast Michigan from Canadian wildfires, but Tuesday afternoon a wildfire in Ontario near Lake Huron blew up, leading to more smoke. 


The pollution has placed the Detroit region in the “unhealthy” category, with particulate matter pollution levels more than 16 times that of the World Health Organization’s annual air quality guidelines. 

"The air quality right now is pretty poor," said Megan Varcie, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in White Lake Township. The poor air quality conditions and dry weather are expected to persist into the weekend. 

A state-issued air quality action day advisory is now in effect through June 8 for more than 15 Michigan counties, as far north as Midland, for “elevated levels of fine particulate.” 

“Pollutants are expected to be in the UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS range with some hourly concentrations reaching the UNHEALTHY LEVEL,” a National Weather Service air quality alert reads. 

Wildfire smoke can cause asthma attacks, fast heartbeat, shortness of breath, and it can worsen chronic lung and heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Experts also recommend wearing a mask outdoors, using air purifiers inside, closing windows and avoiding outside exercise.

The National Weather Service issued a Special Weather Statement for smoke coverage and air quality for areas north of Detroit including Midland, Bay, Huron, Saginaw, Tuscola, Sanilac, Shiawassee, Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Livingston, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw, Wayne, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

"If you are someone that's at risk and has respiratory issues, try to stay inside as much as possible," Varcie said. 

In southeast Michigan, Wednesday and Thursday are ozone action days as well, in which the air quality is unhealthy and experts advise less driving, delaying lawn mowing or refueling until evening and reducing electricity.

The situation could change depending on how the wind blows.

"As we head into the weekend we'll see those winds shift more to the west or northwest. I anticipate that as that happens we won't have as much of that smoke," Varcie said. 

"We are experiencing very dry conditions," added Varcie, advising that residents should avoid burning anything. Rain, which can decrease the impact of heavy air pollution, isn’t expected until Saturday night. 

"But if you have to, make sure that you're watching any small fires closely and you're not letting them get out of control because fire could spread rapidly today, given how dry it's been." 

In 2022, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America ranked Detroit the No. 1 asthma capital in the country. The combination of allergy season, hot dry temperatures and now poor air quality puts people with asthma and COPD at greater risk for health complications. 

In 2022, 16 percent of Detroit adults had asthma, compared to 11 percent statewide.

The poor air quality just, “adds to the misery,” said Dr. J. Younes an allergy specialist in Lake Orion. “If you live in a city where the air quality is not good your life expectancy in the long run is going to be shorter. 


While the air quality is poor because of fires that have burned more than 8 million acres in Canada so far this year, Michigan is amid a drought that also has left much of the state in extreme risk of fire.

A campfire on a private residence this weekend ignited a blaze that consumed some 3,000 acres near Grayling in Crawford County. Favorable winds kept the fire confined just a few miles outside city limits.

Northern Michigan has gone one month without rain. The forecast calls for a chance of rain this weekend and Monday, but much of Michigan is several inches below normal precipitation for this time of year.

Some cities have banned outdoor burning, but Michigan has yet to issue a statewide order.

When asked Wednesday by Bridge Michigan if she would issue such an order, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer urged caution.

"It's been very dry. There are three days of rain in the forecast. But we know that that can change. I don't know how much rain we'll get so we're monitoring it very closely," Whitmer said.

"I've been in communication with my fellow governors from neighboring states to ascertain kind of what actions they're contemplating taking as well. But we are discouraging people from burning anything right now. And it's not — there's not been a rule that's been announced, but everyone's got to be really smart. We know that this fire that we're still putting out was started in an individual private campfire. And so those individual actions can impact all of us, and that's why we're asking people to take this very seriously."

Bridge Michigan reporter Lauren Gibbons contributed

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