If you are going to be traveling today be aware the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has issued an air quality alert for eastern and central Minnesota effective Thursday, September 14 from 12-8pm. The affected area includes the Twin Cities Metro, Saint Cloud, Hinckley and the Tribal Nation of Mille Lacs.

Temperatures near 90 degrees, wildfire smoke and plentiful sunshine will combine to create orange (unhealthy for sensitive groups) AQI levels. The worst conditions are expected during the afternoon and early evening across the Twin Cities metro area into central Minnesota. Ozone values should decrease back to yellow (moderate) levels as the sun sets Thursday evening. Wildfire smoke will continue to keep fine particle levels elevated in the yellow category after ozone decreases.

People whose health is affected by unhealthy air quality:  There are people who are more likely to be affected when ozone pollution reaches an unhealthy level.

  • People who have asthma or other breathing conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic bronchitis, and emphysema.
  • Children and teenagers.
  • People of all ages who are doing extended or heavy, physical activity like playing sports or working outdoors.
  • 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.

Health effects: 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.

Take Precautions: Everyone should take precautions when the air quality is unhealthy.

  • 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.

Pollution reduction tips: Ozone is produced on hot, sunny days by a chemical reaction between volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen.

  • Reduce vehicle trips and fill-up the gas tank at dawn or dusk.
  • Encourage use of public transport, or carpool, when possible.
  • Postpone use of gasoline powered lawn and garden equipment on air alert days. Use battery or manual equipment instead.
  • Avoid backyard fires.

For information on current air quality conditions in your area and to sign-up for daily air quality forecasts and alert notifications by email or text message, visit https://www.pca.state.mn.us/featured/air-quality-alert-issued-due-ozone-thursday-sept-14th.

Stefan Redel