The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has issued an air quality alert for northern Minnesota, effective from 4 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, May 16.

The affected area includes the northern half of Minnesota and the tribal nations of Grand Portage, Fond du Lac, Leech Lake, Red Lake and Mille Lacs.

Air quality is expected to reach the orange air quality index (AQI) category, which is unhealthy for sensitive groups.

According to an MPCA press release, smoke from wildfires in Alberta and Saskatchewan is moving east across Ontario, where a strong cold front will drive south overnight and begin pulling the smoke toward Minnesota. Sinking air behind the front will bring this smoke to the surface.

Smoke is expected to cross the Canadian border into northern Minnesota around 4 a.m. Tuesday, the release states. Northerly winds will push the smoke as far south as Hinckley and Alexandria by Tuesday afternoon.

Air quality should improve across northeast Minnesota Tuesday afternoon, the release states. Smoke may linger across northwest Minnesota through Tuesday.

Fine particle levels are expected to reach the orange AQI category across northern Minnesota, the release states. In this area, sensitive groups should avoid prolonged time outdoors, take more breaks and due less intense activities to reduce their exposure. People with asthma should follow their asthma action plan and keep their rescue inhaler nearby.

In areas where air quality is in the orange AQI category due to wildfires, the sky may look hazy and residents may smell smoke even when wildfires are far away, the release states. Such pollution may aggravate heart and lung disease as well as cardiovascular and respiratory conditions. Symptoms may include chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing and fatigue.

Fine particle pollution from wildfire smoke can irritate eyes, nose and throat and cause coughing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, dizziness or fatigue. Smoke particles are small enough to be breathed deeply into lungs and enter the blood stream, the release states. This can lead to illnesses such as bronchitis or aggravate existing, chronic heart and lung diseases, triggering heart palpatations, asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes.

Sensitive groups include people with asthma or other breathing conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes, pregnant women, children and older adults, the release states. People with increased exposure include people who do longer or more vigorous physical activity outdoors, people who don't have air conditioning and need to keep windows open to stay cool, and people in housing not tight enough to keep unhealthy air out, or who do not have permanent shelter.

Anyone experiencing health effects related to poor air quality should contact their health care provider. Those with severe symptoms, chest pain, trouble breathing, or who fear they may be experiencing a heart attack or stroke, should call 911 immediately.

For more information about AQI categories, visit

. Visit the MPCA's

air quality index webpage

for information on current air quality conditions in your area. Learn more about air quality and health


. Learn about actions you can take to protect your health against wildfire smoke


. Learn what you can do about air pollution



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