Bad Air Quality in Minnesota

In this blog post, we will discuss “Bad Air Quality in Minnesota”. Firstly, this article will briefly outline the details of air pollution. Then it will describe the causes and effects of bad air quality in Minnesota. Thirdly, the write-up will shed some light on statistical data and acts associated with air pollution in Minnesota. Finally, in the end, the blog will also mention solutions to improve air quality.

Bad Air Quality in Minnesota

Bad Air Quality in Minnesota is due to the following conditions:

  • Stationary sources: 

Energy generation and consumption sectors and refineries.  

  • Neighbourhood Sources: 

Dry cleaners, gasoline service stations, wildfires, etc.

  • Vehicles and equipment: 

All commutes like cars, trucks, locomotives, construction equipment, etc.

Before going into these details, let’s first see what air pollution is all about.

What is air pollution?

The introduction of harmful agents into the atmosphere is known as air pollution. The toxic agents are known as pollutants. These pollutants are derived from natural and human activities, and they can be chemical or biological.

Major pollutants present in the air are particulate matter (PM), ground-level ozone (O3), NO2, SO2, and CO. Air also has lead, allergens, bacteria, viruses and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Besides climate change, air pollution has become a significant environmental risk to human health. 

Therefore, striving towards minimising air pollution can also help to improve climate change mitigation efforts. In addition, reducing emissions will enhance the quality of air.

WHO has suggested some revised guidelines on 22 September 2021 to improve the overall air quality. This organisation has decided to implement permissible limits of the earlier significant pollutants.

These permissible limits of ambient air quality are as follows:

PollutantsHourly mean concentration (ug/m-3)Annual mean concentration (ug/m-3)
PM2.5155
PM104515
NO22510
SO240
CO4
O38 hour: 100Peak season: 60

What are the health effects of air pollution?

Environmental studies have proved that PM2.5 and PM10 have caused relevant harm to public health. Both pollutants can deeply penetrate inside your lungs. PM2.5 can enter your bloodstream, which results in various respiratory and cardiovascular ailments. It can also affect other organs. WHO has declared these two pollutants as carcinogenic elements.

The detailed adverse effects on human health are as follows:

  • Respiratory ailments: COPD, asthma, bronchitis, whooping cough, common cold and cough, throat infection, lung cancer, chest congestion, sinus congestion, etc. 
  • Cardiovascular diseases: Heart attack, cardiac arrest, chest pain, heart blockage, stroke, etc. 
  • Mental disorders: Anxiety, insomnia, depression, low productivity, irritation, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, brain stroke, paralysis, etc.

The other effects of air pollution are low sperm counts, low reproductive ability, infertility and congenital infant disabilities.

What are the causes of air pollution?

There are two leading causes of air pollution- natural pollution and anthropogenic pollution. Here’s tabular information about it. This table will also show you a general comparison.

ParametersNatural PollutionAnthropogenic pollution
Definition Air pollution, which occurs due to natural phenomena, is called natural pollution.Air pollution, which arises due to human activities, is called anthropogenic/artificial pollution.
CausesTransportationCombustion of fossil fuel Cooking activitiesEnergy generation and consumptionAgriculture Improper Solid Waste ManagementIndustries and factoriesHousehold pollutionCelebrations Construction and demolitionVolcanic Eruption WildfireDust storms

What are the sources of air pollution?

The sources of air pollution are as follows:

● Mobile sources such as cars and buses and other different commutes

● Stationary sources such as oil refineries and factories

● Area sources such as agricultural areas and cities

● Line sources such as roadways and railways

What are the types of air pollution? 

There are two types of air pollution – ambient pollution and household pollution. The below represented tabular form will give you a general idea about these types.

ParametersAmbient PollutionHousehold Pollution
Definition Air pollution in the outside environment is called ambient pollution/outdoor pollution.Air pollution created inside any closed structure is called indoor pollution/household pollution.
CausesTransportationCombustion of fossil fuel Cooking activitiesEnergy generation and consumptionAgriculture Improper Solid Waste ManagementIndustries and factoriesHousehold pollutionCelebrations Construction and demolitionHousehold activities Perfumes and fresheners Cooking fuel/activitiesCigarette Radon Poor ventilation Uncleaned furniture Pets Asbestos

What is Causing Air Pollution in Minnesota?

You may generally assume that massive, big industries and power plants are responsible for air pollution in Minnesota. Well, it’s not wholly accurate in the case of Minnesota state. Relatively small proportions of emissions cause air pollution in this state. As per the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, most of the air pollution in Minnesota comes from smaller yet, widespread sources.

What are the sources of air pollution in Minnesota?

The sources are as follows:

Industrial Facilities

Around 21% of air pollution is contributed by relatively large emission sources such as factories, power plants, refineries, etc. Such types of sources are significant, stationary sources.

Neighbourhood Sources

These are small stationary sources. Such types of sources contribute around 35% of total air pollution. Examples of these sources are dry cleaners, gasoline service stations, household wood combustion for home heating, deliberate agriculture burning and, of course, forest fires.

Vehicles and Equipment

This section can be further subdivided into two parts- On-road vehicles and off-road vehicles and equipment.

On-road vehicles add 24% of pollution into the air. The sources include all commutes running on the roads like cars, trucks, etc.

Off-road vehicles and equipment total up to 20% of air pollution in the atmosphere.  Examples of such sources are construction and demolition activities, agricultural activities, etc.

Is the Air Quality always bad in Minnesota?

Mostly, the air quality levels across Minnesota are healthy and breathable. However, on other days, pollutants such as ozone and fine particles can reach unhealthy levels.

The MPCA use the Air Quality Index (AQI) to rank daily air quality. The rankings of air quality are good, moderate, unhealthy for sensitive and healthy groups, respectively. This organization then issues an air pollution health alert if the air quality level exceeds its safe limits.  

Air quality levels vary every year despite consistent efforts taken by the pollution control board. For example, around 12 bad air days were reported in Minnesota in 2015. Wildfire smoke dispersed to Minnesota are responsible for such poor air quality in those 12 days. The pollutants present in this smoke are majorly fine particles (PM2.5).

In 2015, massive Canadian wildfires caused unhealthy air in Minnesota. More than 100 Canadian wildfires created smoke and developed thick hazy conditions. As a result, the air quality level was declared unhealthy for all groups across the state.

Apart from wildfire smoke, there are many small yet crucial sources of air pollution in your homes and neighbourhood areas. For example, you are frequently exposed to emissions created by lawnmowers, dry cleaners, backyard fires, etc. These small sources can play significant roles in affecting your health.

Recent studies have also observed that citizens living, working or attending academic institutions near roadways suffer from impaired lung development, reduced lung functionality, asthma, cardiovascular ailments, low birth weight, etc. Researchers have, moreover, claimed that Asthma patients in Minnesota depend upon the gender, age and race or ethnicity of the residents. For example, American Indian, black, African, and African American children suffer more from asthma than their peers of different races or ethnicities.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, breathing such polluted air in Minnesota can cause minor health impacts like scratchy throat, runny nose and watery eyes. However, prolonged exposure to high levels of polluted air can cause severe effects like asthma or even premature deaths.

Let’s see some statistics of air pollution in Minnesota

The below-presented statistics are collected from the 2013 health data from the MPCA and MDH and the 2019 report named Life and breathe: How air pollution affects health in Minnesota.

  • 5-10% of the Minnesota residents who died around 2013-2019had heart and lung ailments, partly because of ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter exposure.
  • 1-5% of the Minnesotans visited hospitals and emergency rooms due to cardiovascular and respiration issues. These issues were also partly due to poor air quality.
  • All Minnesotans suffer from poor air quality, but the most suffering is senior citizens, children, pregnant women, people with existing medical conditions of heart and lungs and children with uncontrolled asthma.
  • Air pollution in Minnesota is equally affecting counties with a higher older population. They are experiencing the highest rates of health impacts from polluted air.

There are various measures taken place in Minnesota to improve the air quality.

The Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act (MCIAA) has been amended by The Freedom to Breathe (FTB) to protect the employees and public from the health hazards of second-hand smoke.

The MPCA, along with the federal EPA and local governments, ensure that the air quality of Minnesota is up to safety limits. The Clean Air Act is also responsible for implementing preventive and control measures for air pollution.

Non-profit organizations such as Environmental Initiative have started an initiative, Clean Air Minnesota, which collaboratively identifies and implements solutions to minimize air pollution. They also collect funds for the projects to improve air quality.

In the next section, find out more about how you can improve the air quality of Minnesota.

What can I do to protect myself from air pollution?

I will elaborate on some of the measures to protect yourself from air pollution.

Personal Hygiene

You can also fight the effects of air pollution by maintaining personal hygiene:

  • You can cut your nails short to avoid the accumulation of dirt. 
  • You can also practice mouth gargling after coming home to free your mouth from unwanted guests.
  • You can also brush twice a day to keep airborne infections at bay.
  • You can also take steam therapy at home to cleanse your lungs.

Quit Smoking

Smoking cigarettes, hookahs (shisha), electric vape or any other types of cigars are not at all suitable for your health. It’s best to stop smoking. Active and passive smoking provides the direct entry of harmful pollutants into your body. This causes the risk to your respiration and other organs dependent on it. 

Physical Exercise 

Physical activities have many benefits to your body. It not only improves your stamina and immunity levels but also helps to increase your lung capacity. Yoga, sanas, swimming, running, cycling, brisk walking and dancing are some of the best forms of exercise to improve your health.

Breathing Exercise 

The majority of people in the world don’t breathe properly. However, correct breathing techniques can keep illnesses due to air pollution at bay. A pranayama is a form of yoga asana which helps to improve breathing methods and lung functionality.

Some of the pranayama types that help you fight air pollution are Kapalbhati, Anulom Vilom, Chandra Nadi, Surya Nadi and Bhastrika. It is strongly recommended to learn this art of breath from a well-certified yoga trainer. 

You can also increase your lung muscles by simply taking a deep breath and holding it for a count of 10. Then, slowly breathe out the air. If you can keep your breath for a longer time, then you have good lungs health.

Good diet 

Always go for a well-balanced diet to remain fit and strong. Consistent eating of junk and fast food will increase the risk of obesity and other diseases. In addition, such people are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of air pollution. Instead, add more fresh veggies and fruits to your diet. Also, you can consume less meat to minimise carbon footprints.

You can also add anti-inflammatory foods as these types of food help to cleanse your lungs effectively. Anti-inflammatory foods which I recommend are: 

Immunity booster drinks

You can do your immunity booster drinks by using readily available items in your kitchen. Immunity booster drinks help to cleanse your lungs. Some of the DIY immunity booster drinks are as follows:

  • Take a glass of warm white milk. Add half a teaspoon of turmeric powder to it. Also, add two strands of saffron to it. Drink it at night before sleeping. You will get good sleep, and you will be relieved from chest congestion. 
  • Boil water by adding half cinnamon stick. Drink the spice-infused water once a day. Your sinuses would be cleared up. 
  • Buy an excellent green tea. Prepare a green tea by following the packet instructions. Have it whenever you feel irritation in your throat. 
  • Take some crushed 1 or 2 peppercorns, a half-inch of a blade of lemongrass and 1 inch of grated ginger and half a teaspoon of turmeric powder. Add everything in one glass of boiling water and reduce it to half a glass. Drink two tablespoons of this spice-infused warm water every after three hours. Adding honey is optional. 
  • You can also drink warm water and add honey if you want. Honey helps to relieve throat irritation.

Use Mask

Mask can prevent you from inhaling the polluted air. You would be able to work in contaminated areas without any fear of allergy infections and stress. 

Masks I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
BASE CAMP CROSSDUST MASKEAPI Filter Technology & Advanced NanotechnologyUser FriendlyMore Durable Six layers face maskFilter materials of the dust mask: Double-Layer Melt-blown with Electrostatic Adsorption Performance, Activated carbon, Non-woven Polypropylene
NIOSH approved N95 maskFour layers mask Flexible nose pad, dual strapsDisposable maskEasy to breathe
BASE CAMP Reusable Cloth Face MaskThree layers mask; 100% cotton Skin-friendly and breathablePocket to add additional filterReusable Mask

How can I individually reduce air pollution?

You can always try your level best to minimise air pollution. The following are the methods to reduce air pollution at an individual level.

Plant Trees

Encourage tree plantation drives amongst the communities. You can be a green saviour of your region. Trees are the natural air purifiers of the environment, and it supplies us with clean air.

Municipal councils or the local authorities can develop urban forests to increase the green cover of the locality. They can also plan to create vertical green walls to improve oxygen levels of the region naturally. But don’t forget to plant only indigenous trees. 

Human/ religious celebrations in eco-friendly ways 

Nowadays, many couples celebrate gender (of their baby) revealing parties by bursting firecrackers. But, unfortunately, these firecrackers can transform into massive wildfires if they are burst near trees.

Thus, you can celebrate such celebrations by planting trees in your nearby barren land. Bursting firecrackers on any religious, festive or personal occasion are only going to harm your loved ones. 

You can also celebrate Christmas by not cutting Christmas Trees. Instead, you can buy artificial ones and use them in the coming years too.

Discourage Plastic

Single-use plastic has been one of the major concerns in the environment. Plastic pollution indirectly contributes to the degradation of air quality. Plastic, when burned, releases various toxic gases such as dioxins into the air.

Encourage alternative use of the plastic product. For example, you can wear a cloth bag for shopping. You can also carry your travel cutlery set to a restaurant. Additionally, you can take your water bottle instead of purchasing a packaged drinking water bottle every time.

Use of public transportation 

Increase the use of public transport to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion. You can also try carpooling or the cab sharing option. Then, you can also use bicycles instead of scooters. Lastly, you can always opt for walking a shorter distance. 

Alternative use of fossil fuel

It would be best to try switching to other fuel alternatives. For example, don’t use wood for the fireplace. Instead, you can wear multiple layers of clothes for warmth. In this way, you can conserve energy. Additionally, you can also install solar panels on house roofs to convert solar energy into electricity. 

You can also buy electric and hybrid vehicles to minimise tailpipe emissions. Finally, propose or discuss a plan with your mayor or any relevant local authority to promote your region’s renewable energy sector.

Reduction of personal carbon footprints

You can also keep a check on your carbon footprints. For example, you can delete unwanted photos, videos or emails from clouds and email boxes as and when possible. Unfortunately, this unwanted stuff takes a lot of energy, which indirectly contributes to air pollution.

You can also switch off the lights and electrical appliances of the vacant rooms. Try buying local products instead of imported ones. Be vocal about them. You can also discover your own country rather than travelling to different ones.

Create Awareness

Air pollution is unpredictable; air pollution in your vicinity can affect people living in Asia and vice-a-versa. However, you can create public awareness about air pollution amongst your community by teaching and interacting with your kids about the importance of good air. 

Educate youth by telling them the ill effects of poor air quality. Then, let your country’s future know that they deserve a better place to live!

How can the local authorities improve the air quality of your region?

You can always observe the changes happening in your surrounding nature. If you experience bad air quality or any activities producing air pollution, you can always concern relevant local authorities or the mayor.

Here are some methods which local authorities can do.

Proper disposal of waste 

Improper solid waste management of an area is an invitation to many diseases and infections. In addition, burning solid waste in public can cause air pollution, although such practices are rare in the US. 

The wastes are mainly disposed of in the engineered landfills and recycled before final disposal to landfills and waste incinerators. 

In addition, waste incinerators help to convert waste into energy.

However, many researchers have claimed that gasification technology or waste-to-energy technology may release harmful gaseous contaminants. Thus, it is necessary that waste collectors rigorously segregate the waste before sending it to waste incinerators. 

The best solution is to minimise waste at a personal level. Statistically, 70% of the waste generated can be recycled effectively. Thus, strive to recycle your waste at a personal level as much as possible.

Reducing air pollution from agriculture

Stubble burning is still practised in some parts of the US. This event contributes to the degradation of air. Local authorities can help farmers convert this waste into cattle fodder or be transformed into pellets as fuel. In addition, farmers should stop the usage of harmful pesticides or fertilisers to decrease air pollution.

How can I reduce indoor air pollution?

Maintaining household or indoor hygiene

You can decrease poor air quality by adequately maintaining indoor hygiene. For example, you can frequently clean your cupboards and open decks to avoid an accumulation of dust particles. You can then vacuum your carpets and sofas at least twice a week. 

Make sure your doggies and cats are well-groomed. Use chimneys and exhaust fans in kitchens. You can also install an exhaust fan in washrooms. Always make sure you are keeping your house well ventilated. 

Keep doors and windows open when possible. Maintain the health of electric appliances such as heaters, humidifiers, AC, fans, air ducts and so on at regular intervals of the year. Avoid overuse of strong perfumes or strong scented candles indoors. You can additionally use indoor plants to make your indoors more lively and fresh.

Indoor plants

Indoor plants do the same work as outdoor ones- they help to purify indoor air naturally. These indoor plants are also easy to maintain.

The indoor plants which I recommend are as follows: 

Air purifiers

Air purifiers help to improve indoor air quality. The risk of getting air pollution-related diseases decreases due to the use of air purifiers. Air purifiers having good HEPA filters do an adequate job of filtering pollutants.

Air Purifiers I recommend are as follows:

NameWhy I recommend it
Blueair Pro XL Air Purifier99.7% of airborne pollutants such as mould, allergens, smoke particles and pollens are captured. 
AIRMEGA 400SReduction of 99.97% of particulates of 0.3 microns. Also responsible for reducing more than 99% of VOCs, NH3 and CH3CHO.Washable and permanent pre-filters are available 
Blueair Pure 121Includes 3-part filtration system. Captures 99% of common airborne PM 2.5 pollutants such as allergens, odours, smoke, mould spores, dust mites and pet dander.An activated carbon filter removes common odours caused by smoke, pets, and gases (VOCs) and smoke caused by wildfires.

Humidifiers

The humidity levels in the office should be maintained between 30 and 50% in the office. This range helps to keep dust mites, mould and other allergens under control. In addition, when AC or heater makes the air in the room dry, humidifiers can maintain correct humidity levels.

Humidifiers I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
Amazon Basics Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier 4 litre of tank capacityAuto shut-off feature and 12 or 24-hour timer settingsIt can be used in both seasons
MOVTIP HumidifierPortable Mini-humidifier500 ml capacity, still produces longer mistsEasy to operate
LEVOIT HumidifierIt can be used for both seasons6 litres of capacity Easy to clean and has a remote control

Dehumidifiers 

Dehumidifiers also work similarly to humidifiers. It controls the high levels of humidity in the office.

Dehumidifiers I recommend

Name Why I recommend it
Pro Breeze DehumidifierCan extract 50 pints of moisture a dayEnergy-saving auto-off systemBuilt-in Humidity sensor
HOmeLabs DehumidifierEliminates moistness, odour controllerEasy to cleanRemovable water tank
TCL Portable Dehumidifier20 pints of moisture removed per dayIt can be operated at low temperatures tooEasy to maintain

Other FAQs about Air Quality that you may be interested in.

Can Bad Air Quality Cause Swollen Lymph Nodes?

Can poor air quality cause cold-like symptoms?

Can poor air quality make you tired?

Conclusion

In this blog post, we discussed “Bad Air Quality in Minnesota”. This article first briefly outlined the details of air pollution. Then it described the causes and effects of bad air quality in Minnesota. Thirdly, the write up threw some light on statistical data and acts associated with air pollution in Minnesota. In the end, the blog also mentioned solutions to improve air quality.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Bad Air Quality in Minnesota

Why is air quality so bad in Minnesota right now?

Air quality is worst in Minnesota in 20 years because of Massive Canadian Wildfires. This was reported by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

What is causing Air pollution in Minnesota?

Air pollution in Minnesota originates from smaller and more widespread sources. For example, industrial facilities, stationary sources with high emissions like electric power plants and refineries are responsible for air pollution in Minnesota.

Why is it hazy sometimes in Minnesota?

It is sometimes hazy in Minnesota because of the wildfires in The Superior National Forest. Furthermore, the winds will carry the smoke throughout the state.

What is Minnesota doing to reduce pollution?

Clean Air Minnesota partners are making efforts to control emissions from mobile sources, small businesses and wood smoke. These partners create teams that coordinate, collaborate and develop specific projects to reduce emissions from these sources.

What should you do when air quality is terrible in Minnesota?

You should limit or, the best way, avoid doing any form of outdoor activity. For example, healthy individuals who experience difficulty breathing or throat irritation should consider staying indoors and reschedule outdoor activities.

Should you wear a mask when air quality is terrible?

Yes, you should wear an excellent quality mask when the air quality is terrible. Many pieces of evidence and theories have suggested that masks are very efficient against air pollution. Masks are also effective in environments with possible exposure to high levels of airborne infections such as office spaces, classrooms, groceries, etc.

References

Environmental Initiative. 2021. Clean Air Minnesota – Environmental Initiative. [online] Available at https://environmental-initiative.org/work/clean-air-minnesota/ 

Health.state.mn.us. 2021. Air Quality, Climate & Health – Minnesota Department of Health. [online] Available at https://www.health.state.mn.us/communities/environment/climate/air.html

Health.state.mn.us. 2021. Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act: Freedom to Breathe – EH: Minnesota Department of Health. [online] Available at https://www.health.state.mn.us/communities/environment/air/mciaa/index.html 

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. 2021. Air rules and regulations 101. [online] Available at https://www.pca.state.mn.us/air/air-rules-and-regulations-101

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. 2021. Everyday pollution. [online] Available at https://www.pca.state.mn.us/air/everyday-pollution

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. 2021. Sources of air pollution. [online] Available at https://www.pca.state.mn.us/air/sources-air-pollution

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. 2021. Who is at risk from air pollution?. [online] Available at https://www.pca.state.mn.us/air/who-risk-air-pollution

Minnesota.cbslocal.com. 2021. Canadian Wildfires Causing Unhealthy Air In Minnesota. [online] Available at https://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2015/07/04/canadian-wildfires-causing-unhealthy-air-in-minnesota/

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