Canada forest fires cause poor air quality, smoke across Minnesota

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has issued an air pollution health alert for all of Minnesota due to smoke blowing in from forest fires in Canada. The MPCA issues an air pollution health alert when air quality conditions reach unhealthy for sensitive group levels, or an AQI greater than 101.

As of 3 p.m. on Monday, fine particle levels reached unhealthy levels in a diagonal band across the state including: Marshall, St. Cloud, Brainerd, Duluth and Grand Portage.  The band of smoke is expected to continue to move across the state Monday evening and into the early morning hours Tuesday.

According to the MPCA, fine particle pollution has reached a level considered unhealthy for everyone -- everyone may begin to experience health effects and members of sensitive populations may experience more serious health effects.

At-risk populations

Populations sensitive to fine particles include those with preexisting cardiovascular or respiratory disease, the elderly, children, and individuals who participate in activities requiring extended or heavy exertion, both indoors and outdoors.

Members of these groups are encouraged to postpone or reduce vigorous activity and minimize exposure to local sources of air pollution (i.e.,heavy duty vehicle traffic, wood fires and candles). Even individuals who are otherwise healthy may experience health effects when pollution levels increase.

Health impacts

Exposure to high levels of fine particles has been linked with both respiratory and cardiovascular health effects. Fine particles may exacerbate pre-existing health conditions and may cause individuals to experience chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing or fatigue.

Pollution-reduction tips

Fine particles are produced from combustion activities, which include fossil fuel-based energy generation, motor vehicle exhaust, gasoline-powered yard and lawn equipment, and wood burning. Conserving energy, buying clean renewable power, and utilizing alternate means of transportation, such as mass transit, will all reduce your daily contribution to air pollution.

During air quality alerts, residents are particularly encouraged to postpone or reduce vehicle trips and engine idling, the use of gasoline-powered equipment, and burning wood.

Information provided from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency