The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has issued an air quality alert for the Twin Cities and portions of central Minnesota, effective 2 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 11 through 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13. The affected area includes the Twin Cities metro, Willmar and Hutchinson.

Fine particles have risen into the orange (unhealthy for sensitive groups) category in the Twin Cities metropolitan area this morning due to stagnant weather conditions. Light winds, clear skies, and a strong inversion have resulted in poor dispersion, trapping air pollutants near the ground.

Poor dispersion conditions will continue over the next couple days as this plume of fine particles will slowly transport into central Minnesota. Fine particle levels in the alert area are expected to remain near or above 100 AQI until Thursday afternoon, when a front moves across the state and brings cleaner air into the region.

There are people who are more likely to be affected when fine particle pollution reaches an unhealthy level including:

• 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

Air pollution can aggravate heart and cardiovascular disease as well as lung diseases like asthma and COPD. When the air quality is unhealthy, people with these conditions may experience symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, or fatigue. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, use your inhalers as directed and contact your health care provider.

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 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. Conserving energy and buying clean, renewable energy are great lifestyle choices to help reduce overall pollution.

• Reduce vehicle trips.

• Encourage use of public transport, or carpool, when possible.

• Avoid backyard fires.

For more information on air quality conditions visit the MPCA Web site at www.pca.strate.mn.us.

Graphic courtesy of the MPCA Web site.