Air Quality Alert issued through 10AM Wednesday

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has issued an Air Quality Alert for Tuesday through 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday for Northern Minnesota due to fine particles pollution due to wildfire smoke. The alert began at noon on Tuesday, August 15.

The MPCA says air quality is expected to reach the red AQI category for northwest Minnesota, which is unhealthy for everyone. Portions of Northern Minnesota will be under orange AQI.

The areas included in this alert are: Bemidji, East Grand Forks, International Falls, Hibbing, Ely, Roseau, and the tribal nations of Red Lake and Leech Lake.

Heavy ground-level smoke from wildfires in the Northwest Territories of Canada is moving quickly across southern Manitoba, towards the Minnesota border. Officials say the heaviest smoke will be across the northwest corner of the state. Winds across the area will turn southerly by Wednesday morning, helping the clear the smoke by 10 a.m.

Another wave of smoke is expected to return to northwest Minnesota by late Wednesday evening.

The AQI of Red means the air quality is unhealthy for everyone.

Sensitive groups include:

  • People who have asthma or other breathing conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • People who have heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes.
  • Pregnant people.
  • Children and older adults.

People with increased exposure include:

  • People of all ages who do longer or more vigorous physical activity outdoors.
  • People who work outdoors, especially workers who do heavy manual labor.
  • People who exercise or play sports outdoors, including children.
  • People who don’t have air conditioning and need to keep windows open to stay cool.
  • People in housing not tight enough to keep unhealthy air out, or who do not have permanent shelter.

Red air quality: Unhealthy

Sights and smells: According to the MPCA, in areas where air quality is in the red AQI category due to wildfires, the sky may look smoky. The air will look hazy, and you won’t be able to see long distances. You may smell smoke.

Health effects: This air is unhealthy for everyone. Anyone may begin to experience symptoms such as irritated eyes, nose, and throat, coughing, chest tightness, or shortness of breath. Sensitive or more exposed individuals may experience more serious health effects, including worsening of existing heart or lung disease and respiratory and cardiovascular conditions, possibly leading to an asthma attack, heart attack, or stroke.

What to do: Reduce outdoor physical activities, take more breaks, and avoid intense activities to reduce exposure. Sensitive and more exposed individuals should avoid prolonged or vigorous activities and consider shortening, rescheduling, or moving outdoor events inside.

Orange air quality: Unhealthy for sensitive groups

Sights and smells: In areas where air quality is in the orange AQI category due to wildfires, the sky may look hazy and residents may smell smoke even when wildfires are far away.
Health effects: This air is unhealthy for sensitive groups and pollution may aggravate heart and lung disease as well as cardiovascular and respiratory conditions. Symptoms may include chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, and fatigue.

What to do: People in sensitive groups are encouraged to reduce outdoor physical activities, take more breaks, or do less intense activities to reduce their exposure. People with asthma should follow their asthma action plan and keep their rescue inhaler nearby.

Anyone experiencing health effects related to poor air quality should contact their health care provider. Those with severe symptoms, chest pain, trouble breathing, or who fear they may be experiencing a heart attack or stroke should call 911 immediately.