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The Canada wildfires are exposing the harmful effects — and health inequities — of air pollution

Wildfires blazing in and around Quebec are creating hazardous health conditions throughout North America. Over 100 million people were under alerts for unhealthy air quality as of Wednesday, and people in the Northeast and Midwest — areas that typically don’t deal with the effects of wildfires — are confronting orange-tinged, hazy skies and newly urgent questions about the harmful effects of air pollution.

Fine particulate matter, the tiny bits that make up those clouds of haze, is a major health concern that’s already a part of daily life for people in cities like Beijing, New Delhi, and Santiago, Chile. Canadian authorities and state officials in the U.S. have advised people in affected areas to avoid unnecessary outdoor activities, and to shut windows and doors.

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