MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has issued an air quality alert for northern, central, and southeast Minnesota, including the Twin Cities. The alert is in effect currently and will expire Thursday at 6 a.m.

The MPCA said the alert was triggered by incoming smoke from Canadian wildfires, which made its way to Minnesota overnight by northerly winds.

READ MORE: Minnesota Weather: Drought Conditions Holding In Place As State Moves Into Fall

Fine particle levels in northern Minnesota are considered very unhealthy for everyone. Heavy smoke will remain in the area through Wednesday.

The smoke made its way into central and southeast Minnesota on Tuesday afternoon; this air is considered unsafe for sensitive groups. MPCA says the air quality should improve by Thursday morning.

The agency encourages people who are affected by unhealthy air quality, such as the elderly or those with respiratory or heart conditions, to limit their physical activity and take the proper precautions.

(credit: CBS)

Dr. David Ingbar, a pulmonologist at M Health Fairview and a professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School, says it’s a good idea to take a break from outdoor exercise while the alert is in effect.

READ MORE: Burning Restrictions To Be Lifted In Much Of Northern Minnesota Overnight

“Sometimes if the air quality is really bad, you can have people, particularly if they’re exerting themselves with strenuous activity, get to a point where they really can’t function as well as normal or experience respiratory distress,” he said.

Ingbar says Twin Cities air quality is about at the point where it’s unhealthy for higher-risk people, including the very old and very young.

“Long-term, those small particles increase mortality rates or even short-term blips can increase heart attacks, asthma attacks,” he said.

Ingbar points to data that shows when air quality is low, emergency room visits and hospitalizations increase.

He says if you do have to be outside, air quality decreases throughout the day, so it’s better to be out in the morning.

MORE NEWS: After Summer Drought, When And Where Will The Best Fall Colors Be This Year?

Ingbar says the drought conditions we’ve been having will likely make things worse because they can lead to more wildfires. We also need rain to help clear some of the pollutants out of the air.

David Schuman