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Minnesota's first air quality alert of 2024 was issued. Here's the harm wildfire smoke can cause.

More wildfires bring air quality alerts to Twin Cities
More wildfires bring air quality alerts to Twin Cities 03:32

MINNEAPOLIS — A hazy city skyline and quiet sidewalk strip tell part of the story up north in Canada, where dozens of wildfires rage.

Traveling wildfire smoke kept the Twin Cities metro and southern Minnesota in a red air quality alert throughout Monday. It expires at 11 p.m. A red alert means the air quality index is considered unhealthy for everyone. 

"I noticed it last night," Denise Amundson said. "I live right there, so I was like on my balcony and was like, 'Somebody's smoking! We don't have a smoker on this stack.' It's like, then I realized, wildfires."


Last summer is hard to forget. Minnesota saw 22 air quality alerts in 52 days — a record-breaking year.

"Last year was historically bad. It was record-breakingly, absolutely, terribly bad," said Quin Barber, fire science analyst with the Canadian Forest Service. "So to say it's better than last year is not saying much. We might have a pretty smokey year. We might have a lot of fire."

Barber says while it's too early to tell, it's unlikely that we will get as many smokey says as we did last year. Rain and wind changes can drastically impact the outlook. But smokey summers might be here to stay.  

"The days of long summers with hot temperatures and no smoke, those may not be very common anymore," Barber said. "But take advantage of clear skies when we get them."  

How wildfire smoke can effect your body 01:05

What's in this wildfire smoke, and what does it do to our bodies?

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says as vegetation burns, all of the volatile organic compounds that are very harmful to ingest are released. Those include wood tars, gases and soot, carbon monoxide and fine particles.

Short-term inhalation of wildfire smoke could aggravate lung disease, asthma and acute bronchitis, and it can increase the risk of respiratory infections.

Over time, this could lead to COPD, lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. High concentrations could permanently damage lung tissue.

Make sure to shut your windows and minimize your time outdoors when your area is under a red air quality alert.

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