The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's (MPCA) air quality alert takes effect Wednesday, July 28, beginning at 10 p.m. and runs until Friday, July 30, at 3 p.m. The affected area includes Detroit Lakes, International Falls, Duluth, St Cloud, the Twin Cities, Marshall, Rochester, and the tribal nations of Fond du Lac, Upper Sioux, Leech Lake, Red Lake, Mille Lacs, and Prairie Island.

Map courtesy of Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Map courtesy of Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

According to a news release, northerly winds behind a cold front will bring smoke from wildfires located north of the Canadian border in Ontario and Manitoba into Minnesota. Heavy smoke is expected to arrive around 10 p.m. Wednesday near the Canadian border and mid-morning on Thursday in central and southern Minnesota. Smoke will remain over the area into Friday.

During this time, fine particle levels are expected to be in the Orange AQI category, a level that is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups.

Fine particle levels will begin to improve Friday morning as southerly winds start moving the smoke out of the state. By Friday afternoon, air quality should improve below alert levels statewide.

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People at risk

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.
  • People who don’t have air conditioning to reduce indoor air pollution.

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.
  • Keep indoor air as clean as possible. Use indoor air filtration or air conditioning with the fresh-air intake closed/set on recirculate to reduce indoor air pollution.
  • 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.
  • 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.