For immediate release: Dec. 11, 2008
Contact: Mark Sulzbach, 651-757-2770
Saint Paul, Minn. -- The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has added the city of Rochester to its air pollution forecasting service. Rochester joins the Twin Cities as the only two state metro areas covered by the MPCA's air pollution forecasting service, which includes microscopic fine particle pollution year round and ozone from April through September.
An increasing number of poor air quality days from fine particle pollution in the southeast region of the state prompted the MPCA to add Rochester. The MPCA has operated air monitors in Rochester for a decade.
"The addition of daily air quality forecasting provides area residents with important information for planning activities and events to avoid exposing participants to health risks, especially for about one-third of our residents with pre-existing health conditions who are at increased risk when exposed to air pollution," said Rich Peter, director of environmental health for Olmsted County.
The MPCA measures ambient air quality in nine cities that are used for Air Quality Index (AQI) reporting. Although air alerts are rare in Minnesota, they do happen a few times each year. The hourly readings of fine particles or ozone are posted on the MPCA Web site at http://aqi.pca.state.mn.us/. Citizens can sign up for free, daily e-mail air quality forecasts at http://mn.enviroflash.info/. People can also call 651-297-1630 or 1-800-657-3694 for current air quality conditions, forecasts and alerts.
Many pollution events build from regional polluted air carried in by southerly winds - adding to local pollution -often making Rochester the first Minnesota city to experience significant air pollution concentrations. If low winds and temperature inversions follow or accompany regional pollutants, air quality can degrade to unhealthy levels for sensitive individuals, or build to a category unhealthy for everyone. Usually, northwesterly winds carry cleaner air that clears out poor air quality, often making Rochester the last city to "clean out" due to it's proximity to the Twin Cities.
Pollution health alerts from elevated levels of fine particles found in emissions from vehicles, industry, electrical power plants and wood smoke can occur at any time of the year. The winter weather in Minnesota often brings temperature inversions - warm air over cold air - ideal for trapping fine particles and allowing them to build to unsafe levels.
Learn more about health concerns associated with air pollution on the MPCA Web site at www.pca.state.mn.us/air/woodsmoke/index.html and the Minnesota Department of Health Web site at www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/air/pm.htm.