Air Quality alert issued due to ozone for Friday, July 3, for east-central and southeast Minnesota

Contact: David Brown, 612-251-5703

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has issued an air quality alert for east-central and southeast Minnesota, effective Friday, July 3, from 12 p.m. through 8 p.m. The affected area includes the Twin Cities metro, St. Cloud, Rochester, Winona, and the tribal nation of Prairie Island.

Air quality is expected to worsen today and Air Quality Index values are expected to reach the Orange or Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups category. Sunny skies, hot temperatures, and light winds will combine to cause an increase in ground level ozone. Light winds over the past two days have caused the pollutants nitrogen dioxide (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to accumulate over the region. Sunny skies and hot temperatures will cause these pollutants to react in the air and form ozone. High pressure over the region has produced very light winds and poor dispersion, allowing ozone to accumulate and reach unhealthy levels. Air Quality Index (AQI) values are expected to climb into the low 100s on Friday, July 3rd in the alert area. This is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups. Ozone concentrations will be the lowest in the morning hours on Friday, and will gradually rise midday through the afternoon. Air quality will improve Friday night as the sun sets and temperatures drop.

People whose health is affected by unhealthy air quality:  There are people who are more likely to be affected when ozone pollution reaches an unhealthy level.

  • 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

Health effects: Unhealthy ozone 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-up 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.

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 Air Quality and Health webpage