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Wildfires and Your Health

What is the current wildfire-related air quality in Porcupine district and what should you do? This page is updated every Wednesday between June and October, or more frequently if the local air quality situation changes.

The smoke-related air quality in our region is low.

Air quality information was captured on Tuesday, July 9, 2024, from real-time data including:


The table below shows the relationship between hourly PM2.5 concentrations shown on the AQMap, the AQHI+ levels and associated health messaging for general and at-risk populations.

  Health Risk Air Quality Health Index+ Health Messages
People at Higher Risk General Population
  Low 1 - 3 Enjoy your usual outdoor activities. Ideal air quality for outdoor activities.
  Moderate 4 - 6 Consider reducing or rescheduling strenuous activities outdoors if you are experiencing symptoms. No need to modify your usual outdoor activities unless you experience symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation.
  High 7 - 10 Reduce or reschedule strenuous activities outdoors. Children and the elderly should also take it easy. Consider reducing or rescheduling strenuous activities outdoors if you experience symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation.
  Very High Above 10 Avoid strenuous activities outdoors. Children and the elderly should also avoid outdoor physical exertion. Reduce or reschedule strenuous activities outdoors, especially if you experience symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation.

Small Sensor Air Monitors

Small sensor air monitors are much less expensive than traditional regulatory air quality monitoring instruments and do not require specialized expertise to install or operate. This makes it possible for anyone to deploy sensors in locations of interest, including areas not covered by regulatory air monitoring programs, such as remote communities. PurpleAir and Air Quality Egg are two brands of low-cost sensors that measure fine particulate matter (PM2.5) concentrations and have been used by the Government of Canada to support wildfire smoke monitoring.

Small sensor air monitors in our area were provided by Environment and Climate Change Canada, and are generously hosted and maintained by various community partners. Support for the Porcupine Health Unit's air quality information is generously provided by staff at the Timiskaming Health Unit.

When you click on a sensor icon on the AQMap, hourly average PM2.5 concentrations are presented using the AQHI+ colour scale along with the corresponding health messaging for general and at-risk populations.

Although information on the health effects specifically related to PM2.5 from wildfire smoke is somewhat limited, there is substantial evidence on the health effects of ambient PM2.5 from all sources. Additionally, exposure to PM2.5 is currently the most well described public health risk from wildfire smoke. Based on the evidence to date, no level of exposure to PM2.5 is considered “safe”, and as concentrations and durations of exposure increase, the corresponding health risks increase.

What is in wildfire smoke?

Wildfire smoke is made up of a mixture of gases and very small particles that are produced when wood and other organic matter burn. The small particles in wildfire smoke also contain other types of air pollution and have been linked to serious health effects. Smoke also contains toxic gases like carbon monoxide that can be harmful to your health.

Smoke particles are small and can get deep into your lungs and may be absorbed into the bloodstream.

What are the health risks?

When smoke in the air becomes too much to handle, the following are some recommendations on how to lessen the effects:

  1. Keep doors and windows closed and seal any large gaps.
  2. Avoid using any exhaust fans like the ones in the kitchen, bathroom and clothes dryer.
  3. Turn on air conditioner to recirculate the air in the home, use ceiling fans, or portable fans rather than taking air from the outdoors.
  4. Avoid indoor pollutants such as tobacco smoke, heating with wood, frying or boiling foods, burning candles and using paints/adhesives.
  5. Keep a 5-day supply of medication available.
  6. Have a supply of non-perishable groceries that do not require cooking.
  7. Limit time spent outdoors and avoid exertion.
  8. If you begin to experience symptoms of wildfire smoke, evacuate to cleaner air shelter or leave area; if safe to do so.

Sensitive Groups

People with heart or lung disease, the elderly, children, and pregnant woman should be aware of the effects that wildfire smoke may present. The following are activities that should be considered to protect themselves:

  • Limit time spent outdoors.
  • Avoid physical exertion.
  • People with asthma should consult with their doctor.
  • Individuals who suffer from lung or heart disease and are experiencing the following symptoms should contact their health care provider: repeated coughing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest tightness or pain, heart palpitations, nausea, unusual fatigue or lightheadedness.

Face masks for wildfire smoke

If you must spend time outdoors, a well-fitted respirator type mask (such as a NIOSH certified N95 or equivalent respirator) that does not allow air to pass through small openings between the mask and face, can help reduce your exposure to the fine particles in smoke. These fine particles generally pose the greatest risk to health. However, respirators do not reduce exposure to the gases in wildfire smoke. It is important to listen to your body and reduce or stop activities if you are experiencing symptoms.

For additional Information on masking: Face Masks for Wildfire Smoke

Download, print and share Wildfire Smoke 101 factsheets:

Air Quality Alerts

If your community is at immediate risk from air pollution caused by dense wildfire smoke, Environment and Climate Change Canada will issue an air quality alert.

Learn more about wildfire smoke events, the effects of wildfire smoke on your health, and how to protect yourself at Government of Canada.

Additional Resources

If you experience any feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression, contact your mental health care provider for advice or visit

For more information about what wildfire smoke means for health, including symptoms and health effects, at-risk populations and protective actions people can take, please visit