The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has issued an air quality alert for the northern one third of Minnesota , effective Saturday, July 6th, from 10:30 a.m. to Sunday, July 7th, 12:00 p.m. The affected area includes Duluth, Ely, International Falls, all of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA), and the Tribal Nations of Red Lake, Fond du Lac, and Grand Portage. The alert has been expanded to include the northern parts of Minnesota to the North Dakota border.
Wildfires from eastern Manitoba/western Ontario that erupted late yesterday have created dense smoke that has moved southward into northern Minnesota as northerly winds continue with high pressure approaching from the west. Air quality has rapidly deteriorated to unhealthy levels in many areas of northern Minnesota reaching the Orange (unhealthy for sensitive groups) category. Visibility has decreased to under 1-2 miles in many locations due to the dense smoke. Air Quality Index (AQI) values are staying in the low to mid 100s as the smoke lingers. The smoke is expected to move slowly southward over eastern Minnesota into Wisconsin today, tonight, and into tomorrow morning. Air quality tomorrow morning will remain in the Orange category as a morning inversion further traps the smoke. Gradual relief is expected by tomorrow afternoon as northwest to west winds slowly move the smoke to the east out of most of Minnesota. Campers/hikers/outside enthusiasts need to take precautionary actions over this busy holiday weekend.
People whose health is affected by unhealthy air quality include:
- 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 doing extended or heavy physical activity such as 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.
Health effects: Higher ozone levels can aggravate lung diseases like asthma, emphysema, and COPD. When air quality is in the unhealthy range, people with these conditions may experience symptoms such as 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.
- 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.
- 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.
For information on current air quality conditions in your area and to sign up for daily air quality forecasts and alert notifications by email, text message, phone, or the Minnesota Air mobile app visit MPCA’s Air Quality Index webpage. You can find additional information about health and indoor and outdoor air quality at the agency's Air Quality and Health webpage.