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State issues air quality alert due to ozone

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has issued an air quality alert for eastern and central Minnesota effective noon-8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 14.

The affected area includes Morrison and Mille Lacs counties, along with the Twin Cities metro, St. Cloud and Hinckley.

Temperatures near 90 degrees, wildfire smoke and plentiful sunshine will combine to create orange (unhealthy for sensitive groups) Air Quality Index levels. The worst conditions are expected during the afternoon and early evening across the Twin Cities metro area into central Minnesota. Ozone values should decrease back to yellow (moderate) levels as the sun sets Thursday evening. Wildfire smoke will continue to keep fine particle levels elevated in the yellow category after ozone decreases.

There are people who are more likely to be affected when ozone pollution reaches an unhealthy level. These include:

• People who have asthma or other breathing conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

• Children and teenagers.

• People of all ages doing extended or heavy, physical activity like playing sports or working outdoors.

• Some healthy people are more sensitive to ozone even though they have none of the risk factors. There may be a genetic base for this increased sensitivity.

Unhealthy ozone levels can aggravate lung diseases like asthma, emphysema and COPD. When the air quality is unhealthy, people with these conditions may experience symptoms like difficulty breathing deeply, shortness of breath, throat soreness, wheezing, coughing or unusual fatigue. If experiencing any of these symptoms, use inhalers as directed and contact a health care provider.

Everyone should take precautions when the air quality is unhealthy.

• Take it easy and listen to the body.

• Limit, change or postpone physical activity.

• If possible, stay away from local sources of air pollution like busy roads and wood fires.

• If suffering from asthma or other breathing conditions like COPD, make sure to have a relief/rescue inhaler.

• People with asthma should review and follow guidance in their written asthma action plan. Make an appointment to see a health provider if no asthma action plan is in place.

Ozone is produced on hot, sunny days by a chemical reaction between volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen. To reduce pollution:

• Reduce vehicle trips and fill up the gas tank at dawn or dusk.

• Encourage use of public transport or carpools 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 an area and to sign up for daily air quality forecasts and alert notifications by email or text message, visit www.pca.state.mn.us/aqi. Find additional information about health and indoor and outdoor air quality at www.beairawaremn.org.

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