The air quality station at Florey recorded an air quality index (AQI) reading of 1007 at midday (20 December), more than five-times the hazardous AQI level of 200.
The plummeting air quality levels in the capital are worse than China and India, and the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) says the smoke is here to stay.
With the ACT being surrounded by haze in pretty much all directions, wind changes are just recirculating smoke from across the Riverina or blowing fresh smoke in from the east.
BoM Meteorologist Helen Reid says there may be a slight improvement in air quality; however, conditions can also deteriorate from smoke over the central tablelands or more smoke being blown inland over the course of the day.
“Basically there is either recirculated smoke or fresh smoke,” she said. “There will be north-west to south-west winds today, which will blow in smoke over the Riverina and will recirculate.
“Overnight we are expecting an easterly to push through, bringing in smoke from fires to the east; that is, the Currowan and North Black Range fires.”
Saturday will see north-west winds blow smoke inland towards Canberra, and a southerly change will only drag up more smoke from the Victorian fires, but Canberra is more likely to be affected by a south-easterly change, bringing an influx of fresh smoke on Saturday evening.
Hazardous levels mean the general public will be noticeably affected and adverse health effect can trigger other illnesses. It is advised that everyone should avoid exercise and remain indoors.
ACT Health says conditions like this can cause itchy or burning eyes, throat irritation, a runny nose and shortness of breath and coughing, and these symptoms can last for a few days after exposure.
If you experience chest tightness, wheezing, or difficulty breathing, seek urgent medical assistance, ACT Health says.
For further information on air quality, visit ACT Health.