Air quality alert due to wildfire smoke extended until 11 p.m. Monday, May 13, for southern Minnesota

The MPCA has extended the air quality alert for southern Minnesota. The alert now remains in effect until 11 p.m., Monday, May 13.

Air quality is expected to reach the red AQI category in southern Minnesota, which is unhealthy for everyone

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has extended the air quality alert for southern Minnesota. The alert now remains in effect until 11 p.m. on Monday, May 13. The affected area includes the Twin Cities metro, Albert Lea, Marshall, Worthington, Rochester, Winona, Mankato, and the tribal nation of Prairie Island.

Heavy smoke will linger across southern Minnesota and the Twin Cities metro though the day on Monday. This band of smoke will slowly drift to the south throughout the day and air quality will begin improving from north to south within the alert area. Air quality should improve across the Twin Cities metro during the afternoon and the rest of southern Minnesota can expect improving air quality by the end of the day.

Fine particle levels are expected to reach the red air quality index (AQI) category, a level considered unhealthy for everyone, across southern Minnesota. This area includes Albert Lea, Marshall, Worthington, Rochester, Winona, Mankato, and the tribal nation of Prairie Island. In the red area, sensitive groups should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion and limit time spent outdoors. Everyone should limit prolonged or heavy exertion and time spent outdoors. Fine particle levels are expected to reach the orange air quality index (AQI) category, a level considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, across the Twin Cities metro. This area includes the Twin Cities metro. In the orange area, sensitive groups should limit prolonged or heavy exertion and time spent outdoors.

What this alert means

Air moves long distances and carries pollutants. During air quality alerts due to wildfires, the air is mixed with harmful smoke. Wildfire smoke spreads or lingers depending on the size of the fires, the wind, and the weather.

The air quality index (AQI) is color-coded. Air quality alerts are issued when the AQI is forecast to reach an unhealthy level, which includes forecasts in the orange, red, purple, and maroon categories. For a full description of each air quality category, visit airnow.gov.

Red air quality: Unhealthy

Sights and smells: In areas where air quality is in the red AQI category due to wildfires, the sky may look smoky. The air will look hazy, and you won't be able to see long distances. You may smell smoke.

Health effects: This air is unhealthy for everyone. Anyone may begin to experience symptoms such as irritated eyes, nose, and throat, coughing, chest tightness, or shortness of breath. Sensitive or more exposed individuals may experience more serious health effects, including worsening of existing heart or lung disease and respiratory and cardiovascular conditions, possibly leading to an asthma attack, heart attack, or stroke.

What to do: Reduce outdoor physical activities, take more breaks, and avoid intense activities to reduce exposure. Sensitive and more exposed individuals should avoid prolonged or vigorous activities and consider shortening, rescheduling, or moving outdoor events inside.

Orange air quality: Unhealthy for sensitive groups

Sights and smells: In areas where air quality is in the orange AQI category due to wildfires, the sky may look hazy and residents may smell smoke even when wildfires are far away.

Health effects: This air is unhealthy for sensitive groups and pollution may aggravate heart and lung disease as well as cardiovascular and respiratory conditions. Symptoms may include chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, and fatigue.

What to do: People in sensitive groups are encouraged to reduce outdoor physical activities, take more breaks, or do less intense activities to reduce their exposure. People with asthma should follow their asthma action plan and keep their rescue inhaler nearby.

Who's most at risk

Poor air quality impacts health. 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.

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.

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.

Take precautions

Reduce or eliminate activities that contribute to air pollution, such as outdoor burning, and use of residential wood burning devices. Reduce vehicle trips and vehicle idling as much as possible.

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