Code Red Air Quality Alerts Persist Across Maryland; Expected Reprieve on Friday

By Pikesville Patch
Posted on 06/08/23

Baltimore, MD - June 8, 2023  - Hazardous air quality and pollutant exposure has placed nearly all of Maryland under alerts for unhealthy air quality Thursday as smoke from Canadian wildfires lingers through at least the weekend, officials said.

The Maryland Department of the Environment has issued a Code Red Air Quality Alert Thursday for the Baltimore-Annapolis region. The alert — covering the I-95 corridor in Maryland, DC and Northern Virginia — means air pollution concentrations within the region are unhealthy for the general population.

The highest concentrations of wildfire smoke should drop Thursday afternoon across Maryland, the Department of the Environment said, though particles in the air will remain a concern until Friday.

The District of Columbia, the city of Baltimore and Cecil, Baltimore, Prince George's, Anne Arundel, Charles, St. Marys, Calvert, Montgomery, Howard and Harford are in the Code Red area, the National Weather Service said.

"Under northerly winds, smoke will continue to be pushed south over our area. Thicker smoke may overspread parts of the area Thursday morning, resulting in poor air quality and visibility potentially less than 2 miles," the NWS said. "Some improvement is likely through the day, but the smoke likely will continue to affect the area at times until a front on Friday potentially brings some reprieve to fine particle concentrations."

Chesapeake Beach resident Dr. Wendy Bohon shared a photo of the haze with Patch. “The air quality in coastal Maryland is going downhill fast. 8:30 am and you can really smell the smoke, even just a few blocks from the Bay,” Bohon wrote on Twitter Wednesday morning. “We’ve got all the air purifiers running and masks at the ready."

Depending on your location, air quality will vary, with much of the state either Code Orange or Code Red throughout the day. Code Red, which means “unhealthy for the general population,” means everyone should keep outdoor activities light and short.

A Code Orange alert means that air pollution concentrations within the region are unhealthy for sensitive groups, including children, people with heart or lung disease, older adults, pregnant people, and those who spend a lot of time outdoors.

To check current air conditions in your area, follow At 8 a.m. Thursday, Baltimore and suburban DC were in Code Purple conditions, which means pollution in the air is "very unhealthy" and the risks of health effects increase for everyone.

The weather service forecast calls for widespread haze and smoke through Thursday night. On Friday, showers are likely and possibly a thunderstorm, mainly after 2 p.m. Widespread haze is still forecast before 2 p.m.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore on Wednesday urged residents to "Stay indoors as much as possible. If you do have to be outdoors, a N95 or KN95 mask can be worn for protection."

People with heart or lung disease, older adults, children and teens should take these precautions:

  • Avoid strenuous outdoor activities.
  • Keep outdoor activities short.
  • Consider moving physical activities indoors or rescheduling them.
  • Staying indoors as much as possible
  • Keep your windows closed
  • Use an air purifier if possible

The director of the asthma center at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., said air conditions could be particularly dangerous for children with asthma. Shilpa J. Patel told The Washington Post parents should keep all children indoors, especially those with asthma, and to have them wear N95 face masks if they go outside.

If children start coughing or have trouble breathing, they should start use their rescue inhalers every four hours, Patel said. Parents should call their child's primary care provider, too.

Everyone else – take any of these steps to reduce your exposure:

  • Choose less strenuous activities (like walking instead of running) so you don’t breathe as hard.
  • Shorten the amount of time you are active outdoors.

Clean Air Partners — which issues air quality forecasts for the Washington-Baltimore region — has Code Red air conditions for the entire area. An air quality alert means that fine particulates concentrations within the region may approach or exceed unhealthy standards.

Tips For Coping With Poor Air Quality

On unhealthy air days, authorities suggest these health precautions:

  • Children and older adults should reduce outdoor activities.
  • Healthy individuals should limit strenuous work or exercise, especially outdoors.
  • Individuals with respiratory and heart ailments, emphysema, asthma, or chronic bronchitis should limit their activity level. If breathing becomes difficult, move indoors.

To help reduce air pollution:

  • Turn off lights and electronics when not in use and follow tips from your electric utility about how to use less electricity to cool your home.
  • Avoid lawn mowing or use an electric mower.
  • Use mass transit, carpool, or work from home to limit driving. Fill up your gas tank during evening hours.

For more information on ground-level ozone and fine particles visit the Maryland Department of the Environment.