MPCA issues air quality alert through weekend for parts of Minnesota

MPCA issues air quality alert through weekend for parts of Minnesota Photo: MPCA.

Josh Skluzacek
Updated: February 19, 2021 04:28 PM
Created: February 19, 2021 03:20 PM

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has issued an air quality alert for parts of Minnesota through this weekend.

The affected area includes the Twin Cities metro, St. Cloud, Rochester, Albert Lea, Winona and the tribal nation of Prairie Island.

According to the MPCA, air quality is expected to worsen starting Friday night, with light winds and poor atmospheric mixing expected to produce an increased level of fine particles. Southerly winds on Saturday will then transport more fine particles into the state.

Air Quality Index values are expected to be in the orange or "unhealthy for sensitive groups" category over the weekend before conditions gradually begin to improve Sunday morning.

The MPCA said the following people are most likely to be affected by the worse air quality:

  • People who have asthma or other breathing conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • People who have heart disease or high blood pressure.
  • Children and older adults.
  • People of all ages who are doing extended or heavy, physical activity like playing sports or working outdoors.

The agency added that air pollution can aggravate heart and cardiovascular disease, as well as lung diseases like asthma and COPD, leading to symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing and fatigue. Anyone experiencing symptoms is urged to use an inhaler as directed and contact a health provider.

The MPCA also urged all Minnesotans to take precautions when the air quality is unhealthy, and offered the following tips:

  • Take it easy and listen to your body.
  • Limit, change or postpone your physical activity level.
  • 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.

The main sources of fine particle pollution is any activity that uses fuel, the MPCA said. Conserving energy and buying clean, renewable energy are great lifestyle choices to help reduce overall pollution. Some tips to reduce pollution include:

  • Reduce vehicle trips. 
  • 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.


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