Heat and humidity cause decline in Twin Cities air quality

by Maggie Hessel-Mial

With the added strain of high humidity and temperatures consistently above 90 degrees, air pollution in the Twin Cities has reached significantly high levels.

These levels haven’t been seen here since the mid-’90s and are dangerous to people with asthma and other respiratory problems.

“This is something that happens from time to time when the right factors combine,” said Walker Smith, public information official for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Factors such as heat and humidity mixing with the already high levels of toxic gases released from vehicles increase the ozone level in air around the Twin Cities, according to Smith.

The air quality index, a national index for measuring air pollutants, reached 122 Tuesday. Air is
considered unhealthy if the AQI exceeds 100.

“People with respiratory conditions might have difficulty breathing in this weather,” said MPCA spokeswoman Rebecca Helgeson. “Those with asthma might also be more likely to suffer from attacks under these conditions.”

While the air quality is expected to improve today, people, especially senior citizens, children and those with respiratory problems, are advised to stay in air conditioned areas to prevent problems from occurring. If air conditioning isn’t available, people susceptible to pollution should spend time at a restaurant or theater during peak times of day to take advantage of the cooler air..

Helgeson advised Twin Cities residents to:

ï drive only when absolutely necessary during the next few days to cut down on the toxins in the air.

ï avoid using motorized equipment such as lawn mowers and hedge clippers until after 6 p.m. when ozone levels are lower.

ï if exercising outdoors, do so in the early morning or late evening.

Concerned citizens are also encouraged to go to the MPCA Web site at www.pca.state.mn.us to see the current air quality levels.


Maggie Hessel-Mial covers the environment and transportation and welcomes
comments at [email protected]