Air quality alert in Mid-Michigan raises concerns locally

Published: Jun. 7, 2023 at 7:23 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Twelve Mid-Michigan counties are currently under an air quality alert until Thursday, June 8, after smoke from Canadian wildfires left pollutants in the air.

Related: Canada wildfires are leading to air-quality alerts in US. Here’s how to stay safe

Pollutants are expected to be in the unhealthy range for sensitive groups, including those suffering from conditions like asthma, COPD and lung cancer. Henry Ford Hospital thoracic surgeon, Dr. Ikenna Okereke said even just a few days of poor air quality can lead to health problems for these individuals.

“In the short term of that air quality day, it means that person goes to the hospital, goes to the emergency room, has to be hospitalized, suffers a death from one of those short-term outcomes,” he said.

Okereke said vulnerable groups should limit their exposure to the outdoors or wear a mask. He and his research team at Henry Ford are working on ways to warn people with lung conditions about poor air quality.

People spending time outside in Lansing are concerned for their health. Lansing resident Anysa Tijerina said it brings up more than a few questions.

“What is the long-term impact?” she asked. “Or is it impacting us the second we step outside?”

Some people said they’re already feeling the impact of the poor air quality.

“I’ve noticed a little bit of a difference with being able to breathe right, coughing more,” said Lansing resident Bryan Smyth.

Okereke said his research has found a great disparity between urban and rural communities when it comes to air quality, leaving many city residents with long-term exposure to polluted air. In the city of Detroit, he said air quality is considerably more dangerous than that of its neighboring suburbs.

Related: Detroit ranked among top 5 major cities with worst air quality in the world

The impact of decades-long pollution exposure could be the eventual development of both benign and malignant lung conditions. On a large scale, he said it’s an issue that takes teamwork to fix.

“That includes federal policy, community partners, businesses,” he said. “All in concert with the community.”

Many people spend their summer days enjoying the weather at Lansing’s local parks, including Mallori Eldridge, who said she doesn’t always pay close attention to air quality levels. But the recent alert, and slew of wildfires, has been eye-opening.

“When you see it happening across the country you don’t think much of it,” she said. “You think, ‘That sucks, but it doesn’t affect me right now,’ but now that it’s spreading and happening all over, it’s more concerning.”

Eldridge and others are hoping the next few days bring clearer skies and cleaner air.

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