UPDATE: MPCA expands air pollution health advisory to include the Twin Cities

Contact: Daniel Dix, 651-757-2326

St. Paul, Minn. — The MPCA has expanded the geographic area of an air pollution health alert to include the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The affected area now includes the Twin Cities metro area, Mankato, Hutchinson, St. Cloud, Marshall, Willmar, Detroit Lakes, Brainerd, Bemidji and Thief River Falls. The advisory is effective Thursday afternoon through 8 a.m. Friday morning.

Air quality monitors indicate a widening plume of smoke stretching from western and northwest Iowa into western and southern Minnesota. The smoke, a result of fires across eastern Kansas and Nebraska, is expected to persist in this area through Friday morning. During this time, fine particle pollution is expected to remain near a level that is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups. On Friday morning, winds out of the southeast are expected to bring in cleaner air across the state of Minnesota.

At-risk populations: Fine particle pollution is expected to approach a level considered unhealthy for sensitive groups. Populations sensitive to fine particles include those with preexisting cardiovascular or respiratory disease, the elderly, children, and individuals who participate in activities requiring extended or heavy exertion, both indoors and outdoors. Members of these groups are encouraged to postpone or reduce vigorous activity and minimize exposure to local sources of air pollution (i.e., heavy duty vehicle traffic, wood fires, and candles). Even individuals who are otherwise healthy may experience health effects when pollution levels increase.

Health impacts: Exposure to high levels of fine particles has been linked with both respiratory and cardiovascular health effects. Fine particles may exacerbate pre-existing health conditions and may cause some people to experience chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing or fatigue. If you experience these symptoms, contact your physician.

Pollution-reduction tips: Fine particles are produced from combustion activities, which include fossil fuel-based energy generation, motor vehicle exhaust, gasoline-powered yard and lawn equipment, and wood burning. Conserving energy, buying clean renewable power, and using alternate means of transportation, such as mass transit, will all reduce your daily contribution to air pollution. During air quality alerts, residents are particularly encouraged to use public transportation, car pool or reduce vehicle trips and engine idling. Postpone the use of gasoline-powered equipment and avoid burning wood.

Visit the agency's Air Quality Index application for information on current air quality conditions in your area. Sign up to receive daily air quality forecasts and air quality alert notifications by email or text message using the Enviroflash service. You can find additional information on indoor and outdoor air quality in Minnesota on the Air quality and you webpage.