Minnesota River Valley sunset

A sunset over Minnesota River Valley, as viewed from Flying Cloud Drive in Eden Prairie.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has issued an air quality alert for a number of areas in the state, including the Twin Cities metro, effective from noon to 9 p.m. Friday, May 31. 

Air quality is expected to worsen Friday to unhealthy levels, according to the pollution control agency. Wildfires in Alberta, Canada have produced large amounts of pollutants including smoke, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, which have been carried by the winds in to the region over the past several days. Sunny skies and hot temperatures will cause the pollutants to react in the air to produce high levels of ground-level ozone, according to the agency. Air Quality Index values are expected to climb into the low 100s Friday in the alert area and the values are considered unhealthy for sensitive groups. 

The impacted areas include the Twin Cities metro, St. Cloud, Mankato, Marshall, Willmar, Hutchinson, Ortonville and Tribal Nations of Prairie Island and Upper Sioux. 

Air quality will improve Friday evening into the weekend, with thunderstorms expected Friday evening and cooler air moving in on Saturday. 

People whose health is affected by unhealthy air quality include:

  • People who have asthma or other breathing conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema
  • Children and teenagers
  • People of all ages doing extended or heavy physical activity such as 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.

Higher ozone levels can aggravate lung diseases like asthma, emphysema and COPD. When air quality is in the unhealthy range, people with these conditions may experience symptoms such as 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 the gas tank at dawn or dusk.
  • Use 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.

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