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Will Face Masks Become A Summer Staple? Smoke From Canadian Wildfires Engulfs US Cities

As major urban centers face hazardous air quality, the demand for face masks and air purifiers rises.
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For most Americans, face masks first became a common item when the COVID pandemic struck. 

But as smoke from Canadian wildfires returns to engulf major urban centers in the Midwest and the East Coast, dwellers of cities like New York and Chicago are beginning to wonder if wearing a face mask might become as normal a summer tradition as a picnic in the park.

As of Thursday morning, three U.S. cities top the list for the worst air quality in the world, according to IQAir. Washington D.C., Detroit and Chicago are presenting worse air conditions than places like Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and Sao Paulo in Brazil — cities that experience heavy air pollution throughout the year.

Wildfires in Canada have already consumed over 8 million hectares this year, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center. For context, this is an area larger than many individual U.S. states, including Hawaii, New Jersey or South Carolina. Thirty-one new fires started on Thursday alone and 258 of the total 501 Canadian fires are out of control.

The crisis has already burned through a surface 10 times larger than what was consumed during wildfires last year to this date.

Face Masks And Air Purifier Sales On The Rise?

The best health measure against fire smoke is to stay indoors, according to the California Department of Public Health. For those who need to be outside, face masks can protect against smoky conditions.

California has faced severe wildfires in recent years and is now the state with the second-most active fires, only below Oregon, according to the Fire, Weather and Avalanche Center.

Dust masks and surgical masks “cannot offer a sufficient level of protection from particles during wildfire conditions,” according to the California-based agency. N95 respirator masks are recommended in these cases as they can filter 95% of smoke particles.

Manufacturers of N95 masks could benefit if smoky conditions become the new normal in the country’s most populated regions. Some of the larger manufacturers of N95s are 3M, Honeywell and Kimberly-Clark.

Air purifiers can clean indoor spaces as can some types of air conditioning units.

An air filter runs in a living room on February 17, 2023 in Darlington, Pennsylvania. Many residents living in Pennsylvania claim that no air quality or water testing has been done since the derailment. Corporations will benefit from a rise in sales caused by the smoke. MICHAEL SWENSEN/GETTY IMAGES

Whirlpool Corporation, the largest manufacturer of home appliances in the world, as well as LG, Hitachi and Panasonic stand to benefit from a rise in sales in this market.

Will Wildfires Continue To Batter Canada, Send Smoke South Of The Border?

During the most recent wildfire smoke crisis on June 7-8 of this year, Washington, D.C. and New York registered their worst smoke pollution levels on record.

The numbers make sense, as Canada, which houses 9% of all the world’s forests, is experiencing its worst fire season in recorded history.

According to the EPA, “multiple studies have found that climate change has already led to an increase in wildfire season length, wildfire frequency, and burned area.”

With the average world temperature already 2.24 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels —and rising—  the consensus among experts is that wildfires will also increase in frequency and area.

Dr. Mike Flannigan, a fire scientist from the University of Alberta, wrote that “the observed increases in area burned in Canada during the last four decades is the result of human-induced climate change.”

The general expectation among climate scientists is the coming decades will bring increased temperatures and reduced precipitation in high latitude territories like Canada.

As if worsening wildfire conditions in Canada weren’t enough, the American East Coast appears to be surrounded on both fronts, as wildfires are also expected to increase in the Southeast.

The annual area burned by lightning-ignited wildfire is expected to increase by at least 30% by 2060 in the Southeastern United States, according to the Fourth National Climate Assessment from the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

Produced in association with Benzinga

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