Smoke and haze from 83 large wildfires in the the western U.S. are moving across New York State, prompting health officials to issue an air quality health advisory for fine particulate matter today. It is in effect through midnight. Image: National Weather Service

Wildfires in the western U.S. and Canada have prompted an air quality health advisory statewide in New York today through midnight.

The pollutant of concern is fine particulate matter, which consists of tiny solid particles or liquid droplets in the air that are 2.5 microns or less in diameter. PM 2.5 can be made of many different types of particles and often come from processes that involve combustion (e.g. vehicle exhaust, power plants, and fires) and from chemical reactions in the atmosphere, according to the State Department of Environmental Conservation, which issued the advisory jointly with the State Department of Health.

Exposure can cause short-term health effects such as irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat, coughing, sneezing, runny nose, and shortness of breath, the advisory said. Exposure to elevated levels of fine particulate matter can also worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease. People with heart or breathing problems, and children and the elderly may be particularly sensitive to PM 2.5, according to the advisory.

There are 83 large wildfires burning in 13 states across the western U.S., according to the National Interagency Fire Center. The fires have burned nearly 1.3 million as of this morning, the agency said.

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