UPDATE: MPCA issues air pollution health alert for Twin Cities and parts of southern Minnesota

Contact: Daniel Dix, 651-757-2326

St. Paul, Minn. — The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has issued an air pollution health alert for the Twin Cities and parts of southern Minnesota. The advisory for northeastern Minnesota remains in effect. Both remain in effect through 10:00 p.m. Saturday evening.

The health alert is for the Twin Cities metro area, Rochester, Mankato, Owatonna, Faribault and Winona. The previously issued advisory covers the interior Arrowhead region and the North Shore including Duluth, Ely, Grand Marais, Hibbing, International Falls and Eveleth.

Air pollution monitors show a rapid rise in particulate matter with values exceeding AQI 100 along with weather observations showing visibilities dropping to 1-3 miles due to smoke across the Twin Cities metropolitan area as well as southern Minnesota locations. The smoke plume that traveled south from southwest Ontario, Canada and then northern Minnesota will continue to move south-southeast across the remainder of the area.

Another fire from north-central Minnesota is also contributing to the smoke. Periods of smoke are expected to persist in this area through Saturday afternoon/night. During this time, fine particle pollution is expected to remain at or above a level that is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups.

On Saturday night into Sunday morning the winds will begin to decrease smoke moving into the affected regions.

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 MPCA's homepage for links to information on current air quality conditions in your area. To receive daily air quality forecasts and air quality alert notifications by email or text message sign up using the Enviroflash service. You can find additional information on indoor and outdoor air quality at BeAirAwareMN.