Air quality alert: Tuesday, July 20 – Thursday, July 22

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has issued an air quality alert for northern, central, and southeast Minnesota, effective Tuesday, July 20 through Thursday, July 22, at 6 a.m. The affected area includes Hibbing, International Falls, Bemidji, Roseau, East Grand Forks, Moorhead, Brainerd, St. Cloud, the Twin Cities, Rochester, Mankato and the tribal areas of Leech Lake, Red Lake, Fond du Lac, Mille Lacs, Upper Sioux and Prairie Island.

Heavy smoke from wildfires located north of the Canadian border in Ontario and Manitoba was transported into northern Minnesota overnight by northerly winds. Today, fine particle levels are expected to remain in the Purple AQI category, a level considered very unhealthy for everyone, across north central Minnesota. Heavy smoke will remain in this area through Wednesday. Tomorrow, fine particle levels are expected to be in the Red AQI category, a level considered unhealthy for everyone, across northern Minnesota.

Smoke is expected to mix down to the ground over northern Wisconsin and move into central and southeast Minnesota this afternoon. Fine particle levels are expected to reach the Orange AQI category, a level that is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, today across central and southeast Minnesota and remain in the Orange AQI category tomorrow. Fine particle levels will begin to improve across the state beginning Wednesday evening as winds will begin to move the smoke out of the state. By Thursday morning, air quality should be improved below alert levels statewide.

People whose health is affected by unhealthy air quality

There are people who are more likely to be affected when fine particle pollution reaches an unhealthy level.

  • People who have asthma or other breathing conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • People who have heart disease or high blood pressure.
  • Children and older adults.
  • People of all ages who are doing extended or heavy, physical activity like playing sports or working outdoors.

Health effects

Air pollution can aggravate heart and cardiovascular disease as well as lung diseases like asthma and COPD. When the air quality is unhealthy, people with these conditions may experience symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, or fatigue. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, use your inhalers as directed and contact your health care provider.

Take precautions

  • Everyone should take precautions when the air quality is unhealthy.
  • Take it easy and listen to your body.
  • Limit, change, or postpone your physical activity.
  • If possible, stay away from local sources of air pollution like busy roads and wood fires.
  • If you have asthma, or other breathing conditions like COPD, make sure you have your relief/rescue inhaler with you.
  • People with asthma should review and follow guidance in their written asthma action plan. Make an appointment to see your health provider if you don’t have an asthma action plan.

Pollution reduction tips

The main sources of fine particle pollution is any activity that uses fuel. Conserving energy and buying clean, renewable energy are great lifestyle choices to help reduce overall pollution.

  • Reduce vehicle trips.
  • Use public transport or carpool when possible.
  • Postpone use of gasoline powered lawn and garden equipment on air alert days. Use battery or manual equipment instead.
  • Avoid backyard fires.

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