Air quality alert again issued for Brainerd area

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A haze is once again expected to descend upon the Brainerd lakes area and most of northern Minnesota this upcoming weekend.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency on Thursday afternoon issued an air quality alert due to wildfire smoke through noon Sunday, Aug. 19

The affected area includes Brainerd, Bemidji, Duluth, Ely and Moorhead and the tribal nations of Mille Lacs, Fond du Lac, Grand Portage, Leech Lake and Red Lake.

Daniel Dix, air quality meteorologist with the MPCA, said the wildfire smoke is entering the state from the northwest and is expected to reach the Brainerd lakes area Friday.

"It's pretty similar to last weekend, almost like deja vu," Dix said, referring two air quality alerts issued Aug. 9-12 for Brainerd because of wildfire smoke. "We expect the worst of it, at least for the greater Brainerd lakes area, to be during the day Friday through Saturday morning. That will be the most intense time, the way it looks right now."

A large area of Canadian wildfire smoke will move south and east covering much of the northern half of the state by early Friday morning. Air pollution monitors show a rapid rise in fine particles with values exceeding an Air Quality Index (AQI) value of 100 along with weather observations showing visibility dropping to 2-5 miles in this plume of smoke and expected to continue over northern Minnesota.

The smoke plume is from fires in British Columbia and Alberta and from wildfires north of Kenora in western Ontario. Periods of smoke are expected to remain in this area through Sunday morning. During this time, fine particle pollution is expected to remain at or above a level that is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups.

By Saturday afternoon winds will begin to decrease the transport of smoke into the affected region. The southern half of Minnesota will be monitored for an air quality alert Friday night into Saturday.

People whose health is affected by unhealthy air quality: There are people who are more likely to be affected when fine particle pollution reaches an unhealthy level.

• 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

Health effects: 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.

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 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 do not have an asthma action plan.

Pollution reduction tips: 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.

• Postpone use of gasoline powered lawn and garden equipment on air alert days. Use battery or manual equipment instead.

• Avoid backyard fires.

For information on current air quality conditions in your area and to sign up for daily air quality forecasts and alert notifications by email, text message, phone, or the Minnesota Air mobile app visit MPCA's Air Quality Index webpage. You can find additional information about health and indoor and outdoor air quality at Air Quality and Health webpage.