Table of Contents
Particulate matter (PM), also known as particle pollution, refers to a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets in the air we breathe. These particles are divided into three categories based on their size: coarse, fine, and ultrafine.
Here is everything you need to know about fine particulate matter and the solution to reduce air pollution by fine particles.
What Is Fine Particulate Matter?
Fine particulate matter is a subset of particulate matter that is 2.5 microns or less in diameter. The average human hair is about 70 microns in diameter, making it approximately 30 times bigger than the biggest fine particulate matter. Fine particles are so small that the naked eye can’t see them. You can only detect them using an electron microscope.
Where Does Fine Particle Air Pollution Come From?
Fine particle air pollution comes from both indoor and outdoor sources. Indoors, fine particle air pollution may be caused by various activities such as smoking tobacco, cooking, burning candles, dusting, vacuuming, smoke from fuel/wood-burning heaters, and operating fireplaces.
Outdoors, fine particle air pollution is generated by motor vehicles, construction sites, wildfires, volcanic eruptions, factories, and any other activity that involves burning wood, oil, or coal.
Fine particles may also be caused by chemical reactions involving harmful gasses or droplets from power plants in the atmosphere. These harmful gasses include Sulphur dioxide, Ozone, Nitrogen dioxide, and Nitrogen monoxide.
How Can Fine Particles Affect Your Health?
Fine particles or PM2.5 can be harmful to your health because their small size makes it easier for them to enter deep into your lungs and even access your bloodstream. Short-term exposure to fine particle air pollution can cause short-term health effects such as trouble breathing, running nose, coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, sneezing, as well as nose, eye, throat, and lung irritation.
On the other hand, long-term exposure to fine particle air pollution has been linked to serious health complications, including lung cancer, stroke, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, heart attacks, reduced lung function, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Studies have also shown that long-term exposure to fine particles results in increased hospital admissions of people with breathing difficulties and premature death of people with pre-existing heart or lung conditions.
Who Is Affected the Most by Fine Particle Air Pollution?
Anyone residing in an area with high levels of fine particle air pollution may be at risk of health complications. However, some groups of people face a higher risk than others, including children, older adults, smokers, and people with lung diseases.
How Can I Protect Myself from Fine Particle Air Pollution Exposure?
There are various ways you can protect yourself and your family from the health complications caused by fine particle air pollution exposure. For example:
- Avoid burning wood or trash at home
- Avoid exercising outdoors, especially when the air is high in fine particle pollution
- Avoid busy highways by driving less
- Install a high-efficiency air filter, preferably with a MERV rating of 11 and above
- Keep your windows and doors closed if you live near factories or power plants
- Invest in a whole-home air purifier
- Check out AirNow to monitor the air quality in your area and receive real-time alerts when fine particle air pollution reaches harmful levels
Take Action Against Fine Particle Air Pollution
The tiny size of fine particulate matter may make fine particle air pollution seem almost inevitable. However, taking the necessary measures to reduce your exposure at home can make a huge difference.
With the help of simple indoor air quality tips and tools, you’ll be better positioned to fight fine particle air pollution and keep your family safe.