Air quality alert issued for east-central and southeast Minnesota

Media contact: David Brown, 612-251-5703

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has issued an air quality alert due to fine particles for east-central and southeast Minnesota, effective Friday, Feb. 19, at 6 p.m. through Sunday, Feb. 21, at 12 p.m. The affected area includes the Twin Cities metro, St. Cloud, Rochester, Albert Lea, Winona, and the tribal nation of Prairie Island.

Air quality is expected to worsen beginning Friday evening, with the Air Quality Index (AQI) forecasted to reach Orange or Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups category. Light winds and poor atmospheric mixing will produce an increased level of fine particles beginning Friday evening, through the overnight, and into Saturday. Southerly winds on Saturday will transport more fine particles into Minnesota through Sunday morning. This is expected to produce AQI values in the Orange or Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups category for the duration of the alert period. Air quality will gradually improve Sunday morning as a weather disturbance moves across Minnesota, which will improve dispersion and bring in cleaner air from the west.

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 Air Quality and Health webpage.