The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has issued an air quality alert for western portions of northern and central Minnesota effective Friday, July 20 beginning at 1:00 p.m. through 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, July 21. The affected area includes the cities of Roseau, Bemidji, East Grand Forks, Moorhead, Brainerd, Alexandria, Saint Cloud and Ortonville and the tribal nations of Red Lake, Leech Lake and Mille Lacs.
Air pollution monitors in northern Minnesota are showing a rapid rise in fine particles with values exceeding an Air Quality Index (AQI) value of 100, along with weather observations showing visibility dropping to 1-5 miles due to smoke. The smoke plume that traveled southward from southwest Ontario, Canada will continue to move south/southwest across the remainder of the alert area.
The smoke arrives this afternoon into early evening from Bemidji to Moorhead, and during the late evening and overnight from Alexandria to Saint Cloud. Smoky conditions could last 6-8 hours at any location. Smoke will begin decreasing from north to south with northern portions of the alert area clearing Friday evening and southern portions clearing out Saturday morning.
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.
- 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.