Yuna Shin Yorba Linda High School 11th Grade
As of June 2023, around 123 million people have received air quality alerts in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. This hazardous wave of air is said to be smoke from Canadian wildfires across the border of these places. Citizens of these areas were warned to stay indoors and to wear masks when outdoors. The quality got so severe that New York had the worst air quality in the WORLD on the morning of June 8th, 2023. Schools went virtual, cities were engulfed in an orange-tinted haze, and unexpected symptoms - like coughs, sore throats, itchy eyes, chest pain, headaches, and dizziness - came with the infected air.
As the leading cause of this condition in these locations, Canada is still struggling with their wildfires as it continues receiving assistance from U.S. firefighters and is in the top 5 largest areas burned since 2003. This ultimately affected more departments and not just air quality. Flights were delayed if not canceled and the air quality reached over 400 on the Air Quality Index (301 above being considered hazardous). Most shocking of all, the air quality can increase the risk of extreme diseases! Along with the symptoms mentioned before, the contaminated air can weaken the immune system while also irritating one’s lungs. This makes an individual more vulnerable and fragile to infections and illnesses.
Despite this toxic, deadly, and smoke-filled air quality, some New York workers must persevere and continue working - specifically delivery workers. Unfortunately, these workers can’t afford to miss a day of work, especially those who operate as independent contractors who don’t have a minimum wage requirement. This truth shows the unfair and disheartening reality of some of society’s workers. When asked about this awful situation, Kaylyn Kim, a rising senior at Sunny Hills High School, explains that she feels upset as the workers “are in a position where they must risk their lives to earn a living.” This is absolutely true as there have been interviews around this situation where these workers expressed how the more they are exposed to this toxicity, the more they cannot breathe and feel soreness in their throats. Kaylyn continues by saying that “there should be restrictions and some mercy put in place.” Once again, there aren’t really any restrictions regarding the paycheck of these workers which inevitably forces them to work through such harsh conditions. Similarly, Andrew Shin, a senior at Fairmont Prep Academy, believes that because workers “can’t miss payments for their living expenses [it] is just heartbreaking” to witness this situation. Indeed, this situation really shows the inhumane and cruel realities that some individuals live in.
Ultimately and hopefully in the future, there will be better alternatives for those who are working so they can have a safer and better way to earn money and support themselves.
<Yuna Shin Yorba Linda High School 11th Grade