Air quality alert issued for wildfire smoke in central and northern Minn. extended until Tuesday afternoonJul 25, 2023 09:01AM ● By Content Editor
From the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency - July 25, 2023
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has issued an air quality alert for the Twin Cities, effective from noon on Tuesday, July 25, through 9 p.m. on Thursday, July 27. The affected area includes the Twin Cities metropolitan area, and the tribal nation of Prairie Island.
The air quality alert in northern Minn. for wildfire smoke has been extended until 3 p.m. on Tuesday. The central/northern alert area includes Brainerd, Alexandria, Hinckley, St. Cloud, Bemidji, International Falls, Two Harbors, Hibbing, Ely, Duluth, Roseau, and the tribal nations of Mille Lacs, Leech Lake, Red Lake, Grand Portage, and Fond du Lac.
In the Twin Cities, ground-level ozone is expected to be high during the afternoon hours on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Sunny skies, warm temperatures, and low humidity will create an environment favorable for two types of pollutants (volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides) to react in the air to produce ground-level ozone. Ozone will be highest during the afternoon and early evening hours when sunshine is most abundant, and temperatures are highest. Ozone will be low in the morning, late evening, and overnight. Ozone levels are expected to reach the orange air quality index (AQI) category, a level considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, across central and southern Minn.
The health impacts of air quality are exacerbated by extreme heat. Sensitive groups, such as people with lung disease (including asthma), heart disease, children and older adults, and people who are active outdoors, should take extra precautions and avoid prolonged or heavy outdoor exertion. The general public should consider timing outdoor exertion during the morning hours when both temperatures and ozone levels are the lowest. The alert area includes the Twin Cities and the tribal nation of Prairie Island. In the orange ozone alert area, sensitive groups should limit prolonged or heavy exertion and time spent outdoors during the afternoon and early evening.
In northern Minn., wildfire smoke from fires in northern Alberta and British Columbia will persist for the rest of today, overnight, and into the day on Tuesday. Southerly winds will gradually push the thickest smoke out of the state by tomorrow afternoon.
Fine particle levels are expected to reach the orange air quality index (AQI) category, a level considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, across central and northern Minn. This area includes Brainerd, Alexandria, Hinckley, St. Cloud, Bemidji, International Falls, Two Harbors, Hibbing, Ely, Duluth, Roseau, and the tribal nations of Mille Lacs, Leech Lake, Red Lake, Grand Portage, and Fond du Lac. In the orange area, sensitive groups should limit prolonged or heavy exertion and time spent outdoors.
What this alert means
The air quality index (AQI) is color-coded. Air quality alerts are issued when the AQI is forecast to reach an unhealthy level, which includes forecasts in the orange, red, purple, and maroon categories. For a full description of each air quality category, visit airnow.gov.
There are people who are more likely to be affected when ozone pollution reaches an unhealthy level. The health impacts of air quality are exacerbated by extreme heat.
- People who have asthma or other breathing conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic bronchitis, and emphysema.
- Children and teenagers.
- People of all ages who are doing extended or heavy, physical activity like playing sports or working outdoors.
- Some healthy people who are more sensitive to ozone even though they have none of the risk factors. There may be a genetic base for this increased sensitivity.
Unhealthy ozone and fine particulate levels can aggravate lung diseases like asthma, emphysema, and COPD. When the air quality is unhealthy, people with these conditions may experience symptoms like difficulty breathing deeply, shortness of breath, throat soreness, wheezing, coughing, or unusual 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
Ozone is produced on hot, sunny days by a chemical reaction between volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen.
- Reduce vehicle trips and fill the gas tank at dawn or dusk.
- 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 backyard fires.
- Visit MPCA’s Air Quality Index webpage for information on current air quality conditions in your area.
- Sign up for daily air quality forecasts and alert notifications though EnviroFlash.
- Download the EPA AirNow mobile app from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.
- Visit the MPCA's Air quality and health webpage for information about health and indoor and outdoor air quality and how to prevent air pollution.