Air quality alert due to fine particles expanded to include southeast Minnesota through Thursday, Dec. 13

Contact: David Brown, 612-251-5703

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has expanded the current air quality alert for the Twin Cities and portions of central Minnesota. It is still effective through 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13. The affected area now includes the Twin Cities, Willmar, Hutchinson, Mankato, Albert Lea, Rochester, Winona, and the Tribal Nations of Prairie Island and Upper Sioux.

Fine particle levels will continue to be in the Orange (Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups) category in the Twin Cities metropolitan area and central Minnesota this morning due to stagnant weather conditions. Fine particle levels have also reached the Orange category across southeast Minnesota. Light winds, fog, and a strong inversion have resulted in poor dispersion of air pollutants and they are accumulating and becoming trapped near the ground.

These conditions will continue over the next couple of days as this plume of fine particles will slowly move across central and southeast Minnesota. Fine particle levels in the alert area are expected to remain near or above 100 AQI until Thursday afternoon, when a front moves across the state and brings cleaner air into the region.

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 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.
  • 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 the MPCA’s Air Quality Index webpage. You can find additional information about health and indoor and outdoor air quality on the Air Quality and Health webpage.