The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has upgraded the severity and geographic range of an air pollution health advisory issued yesterday, placing the eastern two-thirds of Minnesota, including all of Fillmore County and most of Houston County, under an air pollution health alert.

In this portion of the state, air quality conditions are considered unhealthy for sensitive groups.

Strong temperature inversions, snow melt, and morning fog are trapping fine particle pollution near the surface across much of the state today. Air quality conditions are expected to improve as a slow-moving frontal system passes over Minnesota. Conditions will first improve in the west and are expected to improve in the easternmost parts of the state by this evening. Updated information on air quality conditions across the state is available on the MPCA's Air Quality Index website at

The air pollution health alert issued for western Minnesota, which was scheduled to run through noon today, has been cancelled. Since 5 a.m. Friday, air monitors in western Minnesota indicate that cleaner air has moved into the region.

The MPCA issues an air pollution health alert when air quality conditions reach levels that are unhealthy for sensitive groups, or an Air Quality Index greater than 101. An air pollution health advisory is issued when air quality conditions are expected to approach levels that are unhealthy for sensitive groups, but the Air Quality Index is not expected to reach 101.

At-risk populations: Fine-particle pollution is expected to reach a level considered unhealthy for sensitive groups. Populations sensitive to fine particles include those with pre-existing cardiovascular or respiratory disease, the elderly, children, and individuals who participate in activities requiring extended or heavy exertion, both indoors and outdoors. Members of these groups are encouraged to postpone or reduce vigorous activity and minimize exposure to local sources of air pollution (i.e.,heavy-duty vehicle traffic, wood fires and candles). Even individuals who are otherwise healthy may experience health effects when pollution levels increase.

Health impacts: Exposure to high levels of fine particles has been linked with both respiratory and cardiovascular health effects. Fine particles may exacerbate pre-existing health conditions and may cause individuals to experience chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing or fatigue. If you experience these symptoms, contact your physician.

Pollution-reduction tips: Fine particles are produced from combustion activities, which include fossil fuel-based energy generation, motor vehicle exhaust, gasoline-powered yard and lawn equipment, and wood burning. Conserving energy, buying clean renewable power, and using alternate means of transportation, such as mass transit, will all reduce your daily contribution to air pollution. During air quality alerts, residents are particularly encouraged to postpone or reduce vehicle trips and engine idling, reduce the use of gasoline-powered equipment, and avoid burning wood.

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