The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is warning residents in the Twin Cities metro and Rochester area that ozone pollution levels are expected to rise to unhealthy levels for sensitive groups on Wednesday.
The air pollution health advisory will be effective from noon until midnight, as temperatures are forecasted to reach the low 90s with moderate southwestern winds expected to carry wildfire smoke into the area.
As a result, the Air Quality Index (AQI) is forecasted to reach 97 in the Twin Cities and 93 in Rochester. Those levels are just below air quality conditions considered unhealthy for sensitive groups.
The elderly, children and those who participate in strenuous outdoor activities are encouraged to either reschedule their outings for the morning hours or reduce or postpone their plans until the conditions change.
Those who are most at risk include residents who suffer from pre-existing and chronic respiratory conditions, but even those who are healthy could experience adverse effects when ozone levels are high.
Some of the health impacts include difficulty breathing deeply and vigorously, shortness of breath, discomfort breathing, coughing and a sore or itchy throat. Officials urge anyone experiencing those symptoms to contact a physician.
Keeping Pets Safe
Last year, five dogs in Minneapolis died after being left alone in hot cars for short periods of time. On a warm day, the temperature inside a vehicle can climb above 120 degrees in just a matter of minutes -- even with windows cracked. That heat can cause brain damage, heat stroke or suffocation.
Below are some tips to keep pets safe:
If you see an animal outside or in a car exhibiting signs of heat stress, call Minneapolis Animal Care & Control immediately at 311 inside the city limits or 612-673-3000. If you believe the situation is life-threatening, please call 911.
What is Ozone?
On hot, sunny days, a chemical reaction of volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides create ozone. Motor vehicles, lawn and garden equipment, paints and solvents, fuels or other combustion processes release those pollutants.
Tips to Reduce Pollution
Officials recommend conserving energy, using mass transit and renewable power when possible to reduce contribution to air pollution.
MPCA officials encourage residents to either postpone or reduce vehicle trips -- particularly engine idling and refueling. They also advise against using gasoline-powered equipment, working with paints or solvents, or burning wood during advisory periods.