The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency issued an air quality alert for much of Minnesota through 6 a.m. Thursday, July 22.

The alert is for northern, central and southeast Minnesota, according to a state Department of Health news release. The affected area includes Hibbing, International Falls, Bemidji, Roseau, East Grand Forks, Moorhead, Brainerd, St. Cloud, Willmar, the Twin Cities, Rochester, Mankato, and the tribal areas of Leech Lake, Red Lake, Fond du Lac, Mille Lacs, Upper Sioux, and Prairie Island.

Heavy smoke from wildfires north of the Canadian border in Ontario and Manitoba traveled into northern Minnesota overnight by northerly winds.

The air quality index (AQI) is expected to reach the purple level, meaning the air is very unhealthy for everyone, according to the release.

Map by Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Map by Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

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During this time, all people should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors, and sensitive groups, such as people with asthma and lung disease, heart disease, children and older adults, should avoid all physical activities outdoors.

People whose health is affected by unhealthy air quality include:

  • People who have asthma or other breathing conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

  • 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.

Everyone should take precautions when the air quality is unhealthy, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency:

  • 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.

Conditions are expected to improve somewhat by Thursday morning as winds continue to blow the smoke out of the state, and the AQI is expected to drop to the red level, or unhealthy for all individuals, by Thursday.