Michigan’s answer to air quality, lacked Canada’s smoke, some say

As Detroit’s air quality once again plummeted to some of the worst in the world earlier this week, Ingrid Pollock thought the haze was fog and went about the summer as usual: weeding, walking the dogs and carrying his granddaughter on a wagon.

On Tuesday afternoon, the COPD patient could barely walk or talk without feeling like he passed out. It wasn’t until that evening that he went to the emergency room that he learned that a statewide air quality advisory had been in effect since morning. Michigan was so choked with smoke from the Canadian wildfires that even healthy people were urged to limit their outdoor activity.

A person walks through the Wayne State Campus on Wednesday June 28, 2023. Due to residual smoke from the Canadian wildfires, air quality is seriously affected in Detroit.

There needs to be a greater effort to obtain information, Pollock, 57, said, pointing to public health agencies and the city of Detroit. Not sure who dropped the ball, but the ball was dropped.

Pollock and others who have felt blindsided by the latest and worst round of dangerous bushfires are questioning the government’s response, saying it has failed to issue warnings quickly and broadly. Meanwhile, environmental advocates are urging for more robust public awareness of the risks, with fires expected to persist through the summer.

Ingrid Pollock with her dog Princess on the porch of her Detroit home on Wednesday, June 28, 2023.

Never in recent history have we experienced air quality this bad, which means people don’t have a good understanding of exactly what the threats are, said Christy McGillivray, policy and legislative director of the Sierra Club Michigan. I think we have a lot of work to do.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is in discussions with the Department of the Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and others about how to more effectively ensure that alerts and other pertinent information will reach as many Michigan residents as possible in the future, spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin said Thursday.

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