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When will the smoke clear in Michigan? What you need to know in the meantime

hazy sky in detroit
Air pollution levels reached “hazardous” in Detroit Wednesday morning, the worst in the state. (Bridge photo by Katy Locker)
  • Smoky skies will stick around for at least another day in many parts of the state
  • Air quality levels are currently “hazardous” in Detroit and surrounding areas
  • In the meantime, keep yourself and your pets indoors as much as possible

July 25: Another day, another air quality alert for Michigan from Canadian fires
July 17: 
Michigan air quality unhealthy again Monday because of Canadian wildfires
June 30: Air quality, heavy traffic will impact Michigan travel over holiday weekend
June 29: Air quality warning pushed to Friday in Michigan; doctors urge outdoor limits

Michiganders can expect the hazy skies to stick around through at least Thursday, and should stay indoors as much as possible in the meantime. 

The statewide air quality advisory issued by the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy has been extended through Thursday.

The department forecasts that the currents will switch to southerly winds, but that ozone and wildfire smoke might still present issues.



The smoke comes from ongoing wildfires in eastern Canada and contains a higher concentration of hazardous pollutants than clean air.

The hardest hit area currently is southeastern Michigan. Detroit’s air quality index was 306 as of 9 a.m. Wednesday, placing the area in the “hazardous” category.

Skies in the Upper Peninsula have started to clear, though the air in some areas of northern Michigan is still unhealthy for sensitive groups.

You can check the air quality index (AQI) in your area here. The higher the index, the more pollutants there are in the air. You can also sign up for air quality alerts in your area through EnviroFlash.

Is it OK to walk my dog or go for a run?

Like their humans, pets can also develop respiratory diseases that can be triggered by breathing in smoke. Make sure any trips to go to the bathroom outside are no longer than a few minutes. 

If the AQI in your area is above 150, everyone will be affected by the pollution in the air. Experts say everyone should avoid strenuous outdoor exercise at this level, as someone who is jogging or even working in the yard will be inhaling more air — and more pollutants — than someone who is walking.

How does the smoke affect me?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection, inhaling wildfire smoke can cause a number of adverse reactions including chest pain, heart palpitations, eye irritation and headaches. 

Smoke inhalation is especially harmful to people with heart or lung disease, those who are pregnant, young children and older adults. 

From how far away has this smoke traveled?

The pollution comes from ongoing wildfires in Quebec and Ontario at least 500 miles away from Detroit, in Canada’s worst fire season in modern history.

The smoke, which made national headlines for turning skies orange in the northeastern U.S. three weeks ago, has now been pushed by wind currents to Michigan and other parts of the Midwest.

Why does the smoke smell like plastic?

A lot of volatile organic compounds are released into the air when wood burns, according to a toxicologist at the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. These compounds emit the “campfire” smell we’re used to, but quickly break down when exposed to UV radiation. 

They can then be overpowered by chemical compounds such as benzene and formaldehyde, which emit the plastic-like smell.


Should I close my windows?

Yes. You should also stay in a well-ventilated area of your home by turning on air conditioning or a fan. 

What about in my car?

If you need to leave the house, you can press your car’s recirculation button, which will usually have an icon of a car with a U-shaped arrow. This will recirculate the air already inside of your car instead of letting in the air and smoke from outside.

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