Air Quality Alert issued for entire state of Minnesota due to wildfire smoke

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(ABC 6 News) – The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has issued an air quality alert for the entire state of Minnesota.

The alert will be in effect until 6:00 a.m. on Friday, May 19.

Minnesota’s air quality is burning red today as wildfire smoke from western Canadian provinces blows into the Midwest. The smoke has created a haze in the sky the last couple of days but it’s now down to the surface fogging up visibility on roads across the state.

The MPCA said a band of very heavy ground-level smoke from wildfires in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan is moving along a cold front in northwestern Minnesota. The smoke will continue to move south and east and eventually impact the entire state of Minnesota. The smoke should clear rapidly overnight into Friday morning.

Fine particle levels are expected to reach an unhealthy level for sensitive groups, across southeastern, northeastern, and far east central Minnesota. This area includes Rochester, Duluth, Ely, International Falls, Two Harbors, and the tribal nations of Fond du Lac and Grand Portage. Sensitive groups should avoid prolonged time outdoors.

“When fine particle levels are this high, everyone, even healthy individuals can experience some raspatory effects,” said David Brown a meteorologist with MPCA.

Fine particle pollution from wildfire smoke can irritate eyes, nose, and throat, and cause coughing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, dizziness, or fatigue. Smoke particles are small enough that they can be breathed deeply into lungs and enter the bloodstream. This can lead to illnesses such as bronchitis or aggravate existing chronic heart and lung diseases, triggering heart palpitations, asthma attacks, heart attacks, and strokes.

“I noticed the sunset last night so I knew we had a few issues with the fires up north,” said David Edwards of Rochester. “I can’t get enough pickleball so I’m out here a lot and I’m going to play pickleball outside as long as its dry out.”

He said he is keeping an eye on the sky, but because he is healthy, he’s been more worried about the rain over the smoke keeping him off the courts.

Certain groups experience health effects from unhealthy air quality sooner than others, either because they are more sensitive to fine particle pollution or because they are exposed to larger amounts of it.

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.

“Limit or avoid long prolonged excursion. So any sort of activities like exercise that may raise your heart rate or get your breathing going those are really the things that can cause the smoke to aggravate existing symptoms,” said Brown.

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.

For more information on air quality conditions, CLICK HERE.