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Talking Points: The health risks from Minnesota's hazy skies

Talking Points: The health risks from Minnesota's hazy skies (Part 1)
Talking Points: The health risks from Minnesota's hazy skies (Part 1) 07:38

MINNEAPOLIS -- For days, WCCO has been reporting on the potentially hazardous air quality. 

First, New York City was consumed by thick orange smoke due to the Canadian wildfires. A week later, it was the Twin Cities that was consumed by smoke. 

On June 14, the Twin Cities had the worst air quality in the nation and the worst ever recorded here. Minnesotans with breathing conditions, children and teens and anyone outside for long periods of time were at risk due to the poor air quality conditions. 

RELATED: Minneapolis' worst air quality day was equivalent to smoking half pack of cigarettes

People in those groups were encouraged to minimize or avoid physical exertion outside, and avoid air pollution sources like fires and traffic.  

Talking Points: The health risks from Minnesota's hazy skies (Part 2) 09:21

Two factors are combining to create our poor air quality. First, wildfires fed by dry conditions, worsened by climate change. The second, ozone pollution from human sources like gas engines and factories. 

In this edition of Talking Points, Esme Murphy learned why experts say it's only going to get worse, including Mike Augustyniak, WCCO's Director of Meteorology. 

RELATED: What is the Air Quality Index, the tool used to tell just how bad your city's air is?

Many consider forest management issues a reason behind wildfires in the state. Murphy spoke with the leading authority on the topic, Professor Lee Frelich, Director of the University of Minnesota Center for Forest Ecology.

Allissa Reynolds, Minnesota DNR Wildfire Prevention Specialist warned Murphy this summer could be especially bad for wildfires and air quality issues. 

"We often think about fire as something that impacts us directly, i.e. our our homes being impacted by fire, maybe our favorite hiking area burning," said Climatology Professor John Abatzoglou with the University of California Merced. "But what we're seeing here, right is that fires can have sort of cascading effects, right. Well, well from the actual source of the fire can impact our air quality, and it could actually impact our water quality as well in areas that are downstream of burned areas."  

Talking Points: The health risks from Minnesota's hazy skies (Part 3) 07:36

RELATED: What is "ground-level ozone"?

Co-owner of one of Minnesota's famous lodges lives under a constant fire threat. In May 2022, The Gunflint Lodge and Outfitters had one of their historic cabins, "Justine's cabin," burn down due to a wildfire. Since 2016, John and Mindy Fredrikson have owned and operated the lodge while navigating the constant fire fears.

Murphy also spoke with Dr. Keith Cavanaugh, Pediatric Pulmonology with Children's Minnesota, about the air quality risk to young Minnesotans. He shared that it's not just the kids already diagnosed with conditions like asthma who are at risk. These air conditions will reveal previously hidden cases

Talking Points airs every Wednesday and Thursday at 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., live on CBS News Minnesota.

RELATED: How can wildfire smoke travel so far?

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