Air quality alert issued due to wildfire smoke, now through Saturday, September 2

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is issuing an air quality alert for southwest, western and central Minnesota, effective through 6 a.m. Saturday, September 2.The affected area includes Alexandria, Brainerd, Marshall, Ortonville, St. Cloud, and Worthington. Also impacted are the Tribal Nations of Mille Lacs and Upper Sioux.

Canadian wildfire smoke continues across much of southern, western and central Minnesota. Air pollution monitors are showing an increase in fine particles as thicker smoke moves north from northwest Iowa into the southwestern portion of Minnesota. Smoke will persist and move northward as southerly winds develop across western Minnesota. During this time, fine particle pollution is expected to remain at, or above, a level that is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups. Showers and thunderstorms will approach western and northwestern Minnesota this evening helping to disperse smoke in some areas. Southwest and central Minnesota will continue with higher fine particle levels through the overnight hours until precipitation arrives. By Saturday morning, most areas of smoke will be pushed south and dissipated.

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 level.
  • 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 are combustion activities. Conserving energy and buying clean, renewable energy are great lifestyle choices to help reduce overall pollution.

  • Reduce vehicle trips.
  • Encourage use of 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 burning wood.

For information on current air quality conditions in your area and to sign up for daily air quality forecasts and alert notifications by email or text message, visit http://www.pca.state.mn.us/aqi. You can find additional information about health and indoor and outdoor air quality at www.beairawaremn.org.

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