Clarksburg, West Virginia, has been experiencing unhealthy air quality this week due to haze from wildfires in Canada. Despite expectations of a campfire-like smell, residents have reported a strange odor resembling chemicals or plastic.
The report of Michigan EGLE, the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, says that wood fires such as the ones in Canada release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that commonly give a smell like the scent of a campfire. However, when it is exposed to sunlight, these VOCs break down, resulting in the absence of the campfire smell specifically at the moment when smoke reaches West Virginia.
However, the fires also release VOCs like formaldehyde, acrolein, and benzene, which break down at a slow pace. These compounds seem to be responsible for the reported plastic-like smells. The Michigan EGLE explains that these odors can persist for a few days after the fire.
The effects of the Canadian wildfire smoke have not been limited to Michigan and West Virginia alone. This week, a large portion of the Midwest, starting from New York in the east to Minnesota in the west, experience air quality categorized as unhealthy or very unhealthy.
The wildfires in Canada not only release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that create the familiar campfire smell but also emit VOCs like benzene, formaldehyde, and acrolein, as stated by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (Michigan EGLE). These compounds break down at a slower rate and are likely responsible for the reported plastic-like smells. The EGLE further explains that these odors can linger for several days following the fire.
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