An air quality alert is in effect until 9 a.m. Friday, July 16, for most of northern Minnesota.

The alert, issued Tuesday afternoon by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, includes Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties.

Smoke from wildfires located north of the Canadian border in Ontario and Manitoba will be transported by northerly winds behind a front moving into the northern portions of the state, the MPCA reported. Heavy smoke is expected to arrive Tuesday and remain over the area into Friday morning.

During this time, fine particle levels are expected to be in the Red AQI category, a level considered unhealthy for all individuals, across far northern Minnesota; and Orange, a level that is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, across western and central Minnesota.

In addition to the smoke behind the front Tuesday, additional smoke is expected Wednesday evening over western Minnesota following a forecasted complex of thunderstorms. The smoke will remain over Minnesota through at least Friday before southerly winds develop and push the smoke northward.

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“Sensitive groups, such as people with lung disease (including asthma), heart disease, and children and older adults, should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion. The general public should limit prolonged or heavy exertion,” the MPCA reported.

Air pollution can aggravate heart and cardiovascular disease as well as lung diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. When the air quality is unhealthy, people with these conditions may experience symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing or fatigue. Anyone experiencing any of these symptoms should use inhalers as directed and contact their health care provider.

The following precautions are recommended for everyone 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 don’t have an asthma action plan.

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. Tips to reduce pollution include:

  • 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 and to sign-up for daily air quality forecasts and alert notifications by email, text message, phone or the Minnesota Air mobile app, visit https://www.pca.state.mn.us/aqi.

Additional information about health and air quality can be found at https://bit.ly/2U5lwtj.

In the Brainerd area, the is a 40% chance of rain, mainly after 1 p.m., along with widespread haze expected before 4 p.m. Wednesday, and a high temperature of 79 degrees, the National Weather Service in Duluth reported. On Thursday there also is a slight chance of rain with a high temperature of 81 degrees. Friday and Saturday are expected to be sunny with high temperatures of 86-88 degrees.