— An

air quality alert

issued by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency on Monday warns that much of southern Minnesota will be under an air quality alert from noon to 8 p.m. today. Affected areas will include Willmar, St. Cloud, Marshall and the Upper Sioux communities as well as the Twin Cities metro and areas farther south including Mankato, Worthington, Rochester and Albert Lea.

According to a news release from the

Minnesota Department of Health

, ground-level ozone is expected to be high during the afternoon hours and the air quality index is expected to reach the orange levels, meaning the air may be unhealthy for sensitive groups.

People whose health may be affected by unhealthy air quality include those with asthma or other breathing conditions; children and teenagers; people doing extended, heavy, or physical activity such as sports or working outdoors; and healthy people who may be more sensitive to ozone.

The Department of Health encourages people to take precautions such as limiting physical activity and listening to one's body. Those with asthma and other breathing conditions should make sure they have their relief/rescue inhaler with them.

According to the release, ozone is produced on hot sunny days by a chemical reaction between volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen. Southerly winds are transporting pollutants into southern Minnesota. The sunny skies, warm temperatures and low humidity will allow these pollutants to react in the air and produce ground-level ozone.

Our newsroom occasionally reports stories under a byline of "West Central Tribune staff report." Often, the "West Central Tribune staff report" byline is used when rewriting basic news briefs that originate from official sources, such as a city press release about a road closure, and which require little or no reporting. At times, this byline is used when a news story includes numerous authors or when the story is formed by aggregating previously reported news from various sources. If outside sources are used, it is noted within the story.

The West Central Tribune newsroom can be reached via email:
[email protected] or phone 320-235-1150.

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