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June 09, 2023

Philly's air quality improves significantly; trash collection, other city services resume

Pennsylvania has been downgraded to a Code Orange, which is still unhealthy for children, the elderly and those with asthma

Health News Pollution
Philly Air Quality John Kopp/PhillyVoice

Air quality in Philadelphia is now considered safe for most people after smoke from Canadian wildfires caused severe pollution earlier in the week. It is still unhealthy for children, the elderly, pregnant people and those with heart and lung conditions.

Air quality in Philadelphia has greatly improved since the hazardous levels observed mid-week, returning to a range considered safe for most people.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection declared a Code Orange for the state on Friday. That means the air quality is still unhealthy for sensitive groups, like the elderly, children, pregnant people and anyone with asthma or preexisting heart or lung conditions. Those individuals are advised to continue to limit their time outdoors and to avoid strenuous activity outside. They also may want to wear N95 or KN95 masks outdoors.

But the city of Philadelphia is no longer recommending the rest of the public wear masks outdoors. Health officials said Friday that all residents should consider avoiding areas of high congestion, like highways, and closing windows and doors in their homes to minimize air pollution.

Levels measured around 92 on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's air quality index around 10:40 a.m. Friday, suggesting Pennsylvania may downgrade to a Code Yellow, indicating only "moderate" concern and acceptable air quality, later in the day. Levels measuring 101 to 150 are considered a Code Orange, while 51 to 100 is a Code Yellow.

After suspending some services, including trash collection, on Thursday, the city of Philadelphia is resuming normal operations. Trash and recycling that was not collected Thursday will be picked up Friday, and all Friday collections will be shifted to Saturday. Outdoor events at Philly Parks & Rec spaces also will resume. 

Students in the School District of Philadelphia are attending class virtually Friday.

Philadelphia, like many U.S. cities along the East Coast, experienced severe air pollution this week as a result of wildfires burning in Canada, particularly in Quebec. The smoke resulted in hazy conditions, leading to flight delays and a postponed Phillies game during the worst of the pollution. Meteorologists expect conditions to continue to improve over the weekend, although the smoke particles are not expected to "fully clear out" until Sunday or Monday.

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