NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – People in Middle Tennessee may have also noticed the hazy conditions because of the wildfires burning in Canada.

Anthony Wexler is the Director of the Air Quality Research Center at the University of California-Davis. He explained that air quality issues are especially problematic for certain populations, including people who are older, those with pre-existing conditions and children.

“We know from many decades of research, that PM 2.5, those are the particles that are smaller than two and a half micron, which is very small. Of all the different air pollutants that are out there, that’s the thing that kills people the most,” Wexler said. “And there are still quite a few cities in this country that exceed the EPA standards for PM 2.5 even without the help of the wildfires but the concentrations that we’re seeing in the Eastern U.S. are very high.”

“They’re susceptible because their lungs are still growing,” he added. “Kids having these kinds of air pollution means the lungs don’t grow properly. And then when they’re adults, their lung capacity may not be as as good as someone who breathed clean air when they were kids.”

Wexler explained that air quality concerns exist in Tennessee outside of wildfires as well. Wexler said coal fired power plants are a big reason for concerns in areas near the Great Smoky Mountains and there are a lot of these facilities in the Southeastern U.S. with issues worsening during the summer.

“There’s still a lot of coal fired power plants. And so that’s a lot of the sources of air pollution there,” said Wexler. “In the summertime, it’s bad, a lot of it’s bad because you have these high humidity and high reactive atmosphere that is that you get a lot of sunlight. And then you get a lot of what’s called Photo chemistry, which then cooks everything that we emit into the atmosphere and makes the pollution worse more quickly.”

He said people who are concerned should stay indoors and consider getting an air purifier.

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