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Declining air quality poses health threat to Western New Yorkers

Forecasters predict another day of dangerous smoke filled skies and Buffalo residents worry it will impact their health.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Hundreds of wildfires burning across parts of Canada have created a health hazard for people in Western New York as air quality conditions continue to decline.

The visibly hazy sky choked with smoke, along with what one resident described as the “campfire” scent, helped convince people in Buffalo's Delaware Park to opt out of their normal outdoor activities.

"Not in my lifetime have we really had to deal with something like this in Buffalo." said one Buffalo resident.

"Wildfires are supposed to be a West Coast problem, but I guess no one can get away from climate change," he added.

The Erie County Department of Health recommends people limit their time outdoors as air quality measurements reach hazardous levels. Several Buffalo public schools canceled outdoor activities Wednesday, as did other school districts.

People who continue to go outside for activities such as jogging, playing sports, or dog-walking are taking various precautions to keep themselves and their pets safe.

"I've had to shorten everything, like my walks," a woman named Deborah said.

She was walking her dog when she told 2 On Your Side, "The air has just been bothering me, and my dog as well, who has been sneezing a lot." 

In addition to impacting daily routines, some locals report being physically affected by the heavy air, with symptoms that include coughing, sneezing, and headaches.

"Walking earlier, I felt like I wanted to throw up," said a man who was riding his bike. "The air made us feel like we were breathing extra hard. I want to keep doing all the things I like to do, like coming to the park or getting coffee, but I feel like I'm doing something wrong. I feel like I should be inside."

Relief from the hazardous smoke could come this weekend, but the Erie County Department of Health advises people to stay up-to-date on air quality conditions via sources such as Airnow.gov, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the National Weather Service in Buffalo.

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