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Air quality alert issued for Central/Northern St. Louis, Lake and Cook counties until 3 p.m. on Wed., Aug. 25

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has issued an air quality alert effective until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 25, for Lake and Cook Counties. The affected area includes Hibbing, Ely, Virginia, Hoyt Lakes, Babbitt, Isabella, Two Harbors, Silver Bay, Grand Marais, and the tribal Nation of Grand Portage.

The Greenwood fire continues to burn in the Superior National Forest in northeast Minnesota. The fire is located near Greenwood Lake, or approximately 15 miles southwest of Isabella. Yesterday, the size of the fire was estimated to be 8,862 acres with no containment. In addition to the Greenwood fire, fires just across the border in the Canadian Quetico Provencial Park continue to burn with no containment and will also contribute to smoke concentrations. Changing winds are expected through Wednesday near these fires. These winds will push the smoke plume first to the east, then south, and eventually to the west. As the wind direction changes smoke from the fires will impact Cook, Lake, and the Northern and Central portions of St. Louis County including the Iron Range. Smoke may briefly impact the Duluth area, but is expected to largely remain confined north of the Duluth Metropolitan area. Fine particle levels are expected to reach the Orange AQI category, a level that is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, for the affected downwind areas.

Sensitive groups 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.
  • People who don’t have air conditioning to reduce indoor air pollution.

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.

In areas where air quality is in the Orange (Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups) AQI category, sensitive individuals may experience aggravation of heart or lung disease and increasing likelihood of respiratory conditions.

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.
  • Keep indoor air as clean as possible. Use indoor air filtration or air conditioning with the fresh-air intake closed/set on recirculate to reduce indoor air pollution.
  • 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.

In areas where air quality is in the Orange (Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups) AQI category, sensitive individuals should limit prolonged exertion.

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.

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