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Loreben Tuquero
By Loreben Tuquero August 8, 2023

‘Unhealthy’ air quality affected 127 million in June, not August

If Your Time is short

  • This August caption misses the context that "code red" air quality warnings in the U.S. were removed after a few days.

  • The video it refers to was first posted on YouTube on June 29, when wildfires in Canada affected the air quality in multiple U.S. states.

A video created in late June as Canadian wildfires burned and U.S. air quality concerns increased is being shared anew, warning people of a "code red emergency" because of air pollutants.

"CODE RED EMERGENCY -POISON RELEASED IN THE AIR -127 MILLION UNDER WARNING," read the caption on a version of the Facebook video shared Aug. 3.

This post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

But the original video shared in the post is from June 29, when wildfires burning in Canada prompted officials in some parts of the U.S. to issue emergency warnings. (It features a YouTuber who goes by Patrick Humphrey whose videos PolitiFact has checked before.)

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On June 28, news reports said there were almost 500 active fires in Canada, resulting in wildfire smoke shrouding areas in the U.S. About 127 million people were affected by air quality alerts, which covered multiple states from the Midwest to the East Coast.

More than a month has passed since these air quality alerts, which in the U.S. returned to "good" and "moderate" after a few days, AirNow’s archived air quality data shows. The data also shows Chicago and Los Angeles had "unhealthy" air quality ratings Aug. 3, when this Facebook video was reshared, but that did not constitute 127 million people affected. 

Wildfires can produce volatile organic compounds, which are chemicals that "both vaporize into air and dissolve in water," according to the United States Geological Survey, a government agency. An environmental health science professor told The New York Times in a June 29 report that wildfires can spur the creation of carcinogens such as benzene and formaldehyde, and long-term exposure could lead to health concerns.

Two U.S. metro areas were experiencing "unhealthy" air quality Aug. 3, when this post was made, but the claim that there was a "code red emergency - poison released in the air" affecting 127 million people lacks context: The video the post shared was from late June, and most of the U.S. areas referred to in the video had regained moderate to good air quality within a few days. Most areas were no longer under emergency status Aug. 3. We rate this post Mostly False.

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‘Unhealthy’ air quality affected 127 million in June, not August

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