Barely visible through thick haze from Western wildfires, the sun...

Barely visible through thick haze from Western wildfires, the sun sets Tuesday over Republic Airport in East Farmingdale. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Blame fires out West for hazy skies in the East. Here are details on why Long Island's air quality is so bad — and when it’s expected to get better.

Why has the air quality been so bad lately?

Thick smoke caused by wildfires in the Western United States and Canada has drifted eastward — thousands of miles and across the continent — and is now polluting the air over the Eastern Seaboard. There have been close to 80 fires, destroying about 1 million acres in 13 states, CNN reported over the weekend. Thus, there are hazy skies, including above Long Island and other parts of the metropolitan area, causing perilous air quality. The air currents’ direction and the intensity of the fires have combined to deposit the smoke in a dozen or so other states as well. And according to New York Magazine, the sky is read because the smoke scatters the sunlight, causing red, which has the longest wavelength of light, to be more prominent.

What are some of the health effects of exposure to poor air quality?

New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation said that exposure can lead to health effects in the short term, such as irritation to the throat, nose and ears, as well as sneezing, coughing and runny nose and shortness of breath. For those with preexisting medical conditions, such as heart disease and breathing problems, the exposure can exacerbate those problems, too.

What precautions should I take on days with poor air quality?

The state DEC, which with the health department issued an alert on Tuesday, suggested going indoors — to somewhere there isn’t smoke from tobacco, incense, candles or cooking. When there is poor air quality, the recommendation is to avoid strenuous activity.

What’s the forecast?

The forecast is getting better for Long Island. On Tuesday, the air quality was found to be "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups" on the Island, according to the state DEC’s website. But the air quality is forecast as "Good" for Thursday.

A cold front that started moving in early Wednesday afternoon will usher in a less humid air mass — and Long Islanders and others in the metro area "may see improved air quality." The air mass is pushing the particulates out to sea, according to Joe Pollina, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service based in Upton.

That’s the good news. The bad news: further wildfires are expected in the coming months.

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