Air Quality Alert in Northern Minnesota Expands
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has issued an air quality alert for northern Minnesota, effective Wednesday, July 14, through Friday, July 16, at 9 AM. The affected area includes Duluth, Cloquet, Hinckley, Ely, Hibbing, International Falls, Two Harbors, Grand Marais, Grand Portage, Bemidji, Roseau, Moorhead, East Grand Forks, Brainerd, Alexandria, and the tribal areas of Fond du Lac, Grand Portage, Leech Lake, Mille Lacs, and Red Lake.
According to a release from the Minnesota Department of Health, smoke from wildfires located north of the Canadian border in Ontario and Manitoba will be transported by northerly winds behind a front moving into the northern portions of the state. Heavy smoke is expected to arrive Tuesday and remain over the area into Friday morning. During this time, fine particle levels are expected to be in the Red AQI category, a level considered unhealthy for all individuals, across far northern and western Minnesota and Orange, a level that is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, across central Minnesota. In addition to the smoke behind the front Tuesday, additional smoke is expected over western Minnesota Wednesday evening following a forecasted complex of thunderstorms. The smoke will remain over Minnesota through at least Friday before southerly winds develop and push the smoke northward.
This will affect people whose health is worsened by unhealthy air quality. There are people who are more likely to be affected when ozone pollution reaches an unhealthy level, those include, people who have asthma or other breathing conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. Also including children and teenagers. As well as people of all ages who are doing extended or heavy, physical activity like playing sports or working outdoors. Also, some healthy people who are more sensitive to ozone even though they have none of the risk factors. There may be a genetic base for this increased sensitivity.
Unhealthy ozone levels can aggravate lung diseases like asthma, emphysema, and COPD. When the air quality is unhealthy, people with these conditions may experience symptoms like difficulty breathing deeply, shortness of breath, throat soreness, wheezing, coughing, or unusual fatigue. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, use your inhalers as directed and contact your health care provider.
The MDH advises the public to take precautions including:
- Take it easy and listen to your body.
- Limit, change, or postpone your physical activity.
- 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.