Harborfest expected to go on despite air quality concerns from wildfire smoke

Harborfest expected to go on despite air quality concerns from wildfire smoke

NORFOLK, Va. — Smoke from wildfires in Canada continues to spread throughout the country, including Hampton Roads which having an effect on the air quality.

Dr. Matthew Bernens from Sentara said air quality and air pollution are affected by particles in the air, released by combustion and chemicals.

“The fires taking place in Canada release a lot of these particles into the air and the weather has brought it down to Hampton Roads which is why we are experiencing worse air quality than we are used to,” says Dr. Bernens.

While medical experts say it’s safe to be outside for the most part, for some people it’s not. Children, senior citizens and others with compromised immune systems could be at risk of asthma, heart disease and lung disease.

According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, pollutants in the air can cause coughing, headaches, fatigue and chest pains, which is why experts from Sentara are telling people to be mindful.

“Those patients should be kind of careful and sparing when being outside with the levels of air quality are lower,” said Bernens. “They can use N-95 masks which will help filter some of those particles.”

Despite poor air quality in several parts of the country, set up continues for Harborfest one of the largest events of the summer in Norfolk anticipating thousands of guests this weekend.

Jordan Lett with Festevents says it’s one of the biggest summer events in Norfolk which could bring in up to 100,000 guests over the weekend.

He said the ship has sailed on any potential cancellations.

“We work really closely with hired meteorologists that track this sort of stuff for us 24 hours a day,” Lett said. “The feedback we are getting from them is that it’s only going to get clearer, the smokes only going to get better, the air quality is only going to improve here going forward throughout the weekend.”

While experts like Dr. Bernens understand that the combination of nice weather and summertime events will want to make some people spend time outside, you want to make sure you don’t overexert yourself.

“The main thing is just avoiding heavy exercise and kind of minimizing the time outside in the environment,” said Bernens.

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