What is Particulate Matter and Particulate Pollution?

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What is Particulate Matter and Particulate Pollution?

PM stands for particulate matter: the term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Some particles, such as dust, dirt, soot, or smoke, are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye. Others are so small they can only be detected using an electron microscope.

Particle pollution includes:

  • PM10: inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 10 micrometers and smaller; and
  • PM2.5: fine inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 2.5 micrometers and smaller.

How small is 2.5 micrometer? Think about a single hair from your head. The average human hair is about 70 micrometers in diameter – making it 30 times larger than the largest fine particle.

What is Particulate Pollution?

Key Facts to Know About Particle Pollution:

  • Particle pollution can cause serious health problems – including asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes, and early death.
  • Particle pollution can be a problem at any time of the year, depending on where you live.
  • You can reduce your exposure to pollution and still get exercise! Use the daily Air Quality Index (AQI) forecasts and use outdoor N99/95 certified masks.

PM2.5 readings are often included in air quality reports from environmental authorities and companies. Find out what they mean and why you should monitor their levels. PM2.5 refers to atmospheric particulate matter (PM) that have a diameter of fewer than 2.5 micrometers, which is about 3% the diameter of a human hair.

Particle pollution comes from many different sources. Fine particles (2.5 micrometers in diameter and smaller) come from power plants, industrial processes, vehicle tailpipes, woodstoves, crop burning, and wildfires. Coarse particles (between 2.5 and 10 micrometers) come from crushing and grinding operations, road dust, and some agricultural operations.

Why is particle pollution a problem?

Particle pollution is linked to a number of health problems, including coughing, wheezing, reduced lung function, asthma attacks, heart attacks, and strokes. It is also linked to early death.

Air pollution reduces global life expectancy by more than one year, Delhilites life expectancy is dropped to 6.4 years follow the link for detailed report https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/life-expectancy-drops-6-years-in-delhi-due-to-pollution-study/changetheair_show/52791697.cms

Do I need to be concerned?

While it’s always smart to pay attention to air quality where you live, some people may be at greater risk from particle pollution. 

They include:

  • People with cardiovascular disease (diseases of the heart and blood vessels)
  • People with lung disease, including asthma and COPD.
  • Children and teenagers
  • Older adults
  • Research indicates that obesity or diabetes may increase risk.
  • New or expectant mothers may also want to take precautions to protect the health of their babies.

How can I protect myself?

  • Use AQI forecasts to plan outdoor activities. On days when the AQI forecast is unhealthy, take simple steps to reduce your exposure:
  • Choose a less-strenuous activity
  • Shorten your outdoor activities
  • Reschedule activities
  • Spend less time near busy roads when particle levels are high outdoors, they can be high indoors – unless the building has a good filtration system. Keep particles lower indoors: using air purifiers
  • Eliminate tobacco smoke
  • Not burn agarbatti or dhoop
  • Use HEPA air filters and air cleaners designed to reduce particles
  • Don’t burn candles

Can I help reduce particle pollution?

Yes! Here are a few tips.

  • Drive less: carpool, use public transportation, bike, cycle or walk
  • Choose appliances with the best India Bureau of Energy Efficiency(BEE) energy star ratings
  • Set thermostats higher in summer and lower in winter
  • Don’t burn leaves, garbage, plastic or rubber
  • Keep the bike, car, bus, trucks, and other engines tuned


Some highlights from WHO

  1. Air pollution levels remain dangerously high in many parts of the world. New data from WHO shows that 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants.
  2. WHO estimates that around 7 million people die every year from exposure to polluted air.
  3. Ambient air pollution alone caused some 4.2 million deaths in 2016, while household air pollution from cooking with polluting fuels and technologies caused an estimated 3.8 million deaths in the same period.

Air Quality Guide for Particle Pollution

Harmful particle pollution is one of our nation’s most common air pollutants. Use the chart below to help reduce your exposure and protect your health.

PM2.5 Standard as per U.S. EPA

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