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Air quality conditions cause concerns for vulnerable populations

Experts say as drought conditions continue, there may be more wildfires and air quality concerns.

MINNEAPOLIS — The National Interagency Fire Center, says there are close to 80 large wildfires currently burning across 13 states - in addition to Canada -  prompting air quality concerns.

“Drought has contributed to the severity of the wildfires across the U.S. and Canada,” said David Brown, with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. “The weather pattern is also contributing to where the smoke goes.”

Brown says Tuesday, an air quality alert was issued for northern, central, and southeast Minnesota spanning into Thursday morning

“The smoke is coming from wildfires just north of the border, about 150 miles north of the northwest border in southwest Ontario and eastern Manitoba,” said Brown. “We also had some smoke that came in from Wisconsin and lingered in through southeast of the state overnight last night too.”

Dr. Andrew Stiehm, a pulmonary and sleep physician with Allina Health, says the smoke can lead to unhealthy conditions for vulnerable groups.

"Some of our patients with Cryptogenic organizing pneumonia (COP), or asthma or cystic fibrosis might be very much bothered by increase in particulate matter," said Dr. Stiehm.

Dr. Stiehm says for those impacted by the smoke. "When it's a short duration, just try to stay away from it and stay indoors for the best of your ability; another thing is masking,” said Dr. Stiehm.

Winds are expected to carry the smoke out of the state into Thursday morning. Brown says as drought conditions continue, we can expect more wildfires and air quality concerns. “We expect that we are going to experience this off and on throughout the summer,” said Brown.

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.

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 the agency's Air Quality and Health webpage.