Air quality alert issued due to wildfire smoke for Monday, August 20, into Tuesday, August 21

Contact: David Brown 612-251-5703

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has issued an air quality alert for northeast, central, and southwest Minnesota effective Monday, August 20 beginning at 11 a.m. through Tuesday, August 21 at 9 a.m. The affected area includes the Ely, Hibbing, Duluth, Brainerd, Alexandria, St. Cloud, Marshall, and Mankato, and the tribal nations of Grand Portage, Leech Lake, Fond du Lac, and Mille Lacs.  

A narrow but thick band of wildfire smoke originating from British Columbia is currently over central and northeast Minnesota this morning. Air pollution monitors show fine particulates greater than an Air Quality Index (AQI) value of 101 (Orange) in this area. This plume of smoke is expected to move south during the day and persist into the overnight. During this time, fine particle pollution is expected to remain at, or above, a level that is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups. Conditions will begin to improve overnight from north to south as the smoke plume begins to exit the region. The smoke is expected to exit the state completely by 9 a.m. tomorrow.

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 do not 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 Air Quality and Health webpage.