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Minnesotans face potential long-term air pollution

Minnesota saw a summer of smoke and heat, as historic wildfires in Canada and record temperatures bombarded the state. Poor air quality from wildfires could continue for months.

As the Canadian government tries to keep those wildfires at bay, Canadian Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said those fires could keep burning through winter.

Minnesota saw the effects of wildfire smoke firsthand, with hazy skies and acarid smoke filling the air. As the wildfires continue, more days like those are expected, with states like the Dakotas and Nebraska seeing unhealthy, and even dangerous, air quality on Friday.

Reduced air quality has a pronounced effect on physical health, especially to those with respiratory illnesses like asthma or long COVID. And the risk won’t end with the onset of winter.

“Wintertime can bring poor air quality events through inversions, where warm air in the atmosphere traps colder air near the ground,” Dr. Jesse Burman with the University of Minnesota Department of Public Health said. “During these extreme events, everyone should be aware of their exposure. Air pollution causes inflammation and irritation and can lead to a number of other symptoms such as headache, eye irritation, sore throat and coughing.”

The Minnesota Department of Health is urging people to keep an eye on the air quality, and when it’s poor to take proper precautions, including wearing masks or staying indoors when possible. People should also keep aware of wind conditions, as windy areas can blow the smoke towards other areas and stagnant air can extend how long poor air quality can remain in an area.

The smoke from wildfires can be exacerbated by wood burners in homes, especially during winter, so residents are encouraged to limit their use of those kinds of heaters.

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