Minnesota mostly meeting federal air standards; room for improvement still

Mention Minnesota and maybe one thinks of Vikings, of Twins, but of corrosive, lung-searing air? Yep, that’s there too!

In fact, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) in the news release: “New report puts numbers on air pollution’s effect on public health in the Twin Cities,” acknowledged this.

According to information brought forward in the release, the Minneapolis-St. Paul region in 2008 saw 400 hospitalized, 600 treated in the emergency room and that around 2,000 had died, these resulting partly from air pollution’s effects, a new report noted.

“The report, ‘Life and Breath: How Air Pollution in the Twin Cities Affects Public Health’ is being jointly released today the Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency,” MPCA in the release explained. “The report analyzed MPCA air quality data and health data from the MDH to estimate the effects of air pollution on health outcomes for people living in the seven-county metro area. Scientists used baseline data from 2008 to estimate health impacts of air pollution. The report used data from 2008 because that was the most recent data available which allowed for linking of air pollution levels and health outcomes.”

Minnesota air meets current federal standards, mostly. But, according to the MPCA, meeting national standards doesn’t necessarily mean the air there is always safe to breathe.

Air pollution at moderate and even low levels can lead to serious illness and premature death, the MPCA found. Of the entire population of the Twin Cities region (encompassing seven counties in all), estimates are that in 2008, around two to five percent of hospital or emergency room admissions for problems of the heart and lung, and approximately six to 13 percent of deaths were air-pollution related. MPCA pointed out that these patients’ conditions were exacerbated from both ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter pollution.

“The report found little difference in average air pollution levels across ZIP codes,” MPCA in the release reported. “The report does not address the exposure of a particular individual, nor does it address health impacts related to higher or lower exposures within ZIP codes or variations over time. People in ZIP codes with more people of color and residents in poverty show more public health effects from air pollution, primarily because these populations already have higher rates of heart and lung conditions. They experience more hospitalizations, emergency-room visits for asthma, and death related to air pollution.”

Meanwhile, 2014 data indicates that since 2008 there has been air quality improvement. What is not however, known, is if corresponding improvement in health outcomes has occurred.

“The report is available on a new multiagency website called BeAirAwareMN.org, designed to provide information on air quality and how people can better help protect their health and the environment,” MPCA in the release related.


Department of corrections: In a previous version of this post, the following text appeared: “Of the entire population of the Twin Cities region (encompassing seven counties in all), estimates are that in 2008, approximately six to 13 percent of hospital or emergency room admissions were air-pollution related.” The text in question has since been revised.

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