A complex mixture of both microscopic solids and liquid particles results in the formation of particulate matter. The particulate matter suspended in the air includes organic chemicals, dust and dirt, metals, allergens (like mold spores and pollen), and acids (like sulfates and nitrates).

breathing air

The size of these pollutants is directly linked to the seriousness of the health risks they can cause. Smaller particles of size less than 10 micrometers in diameter are known to cause the most severe health conditions, thanks to their ability to penetrate deep inside the lungs and the bloodstream.

From the sources that unfold particulate matter pollution to the effects these very pollutants have on human life, here are five things to know when dealing with toxic particulate matter.

Particulate Matter Comes In Different Sizes

Particulate matter can be classified as “coarse particles” and “fine particles” depending upon the sizes and the concern. Coarse particles, mostly found in wind-blown dust, have diameters between 10 and 2.5 micrometers. Fine particles, that generally appear in the form of haze or smoke, have diameters of 2.5 micrometers and less. Particulate matter includes:

  • PM10: coarse particles that range between 10 and 2.5 micrometers in diameter.
  • 5: fine particles that are 2.5 micrometers or smaller in diameter.

Particulate Matter Emerges From Both Natural and Man-Made Sources

Particulate matter can be caused by both human and natural activity and can linger both indoors and outdoors. Here are the sources that pump particulate matter into the environment:

  • Fuel combustion from automobiles
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Power generators
  • Industrial activity
  • Heaters, chimneys, stoves, and heaters
  • Incense, candles, and burning wood
  • Volcanic eruptions
  • Dust storms
  • Wildfires

Particulate Matter Causes A Variety Of Health Risks

Particulate matter is responsible for triggering a variety of health issues. Short-term exposure to particulate pollution can start asthma attacks, exacerbate acute bronchitis and lung diseases, and cause the respiratory system to spiral into infections. Short-term exposure may also increase the chances of heart attacks in individuals with heart diseases.

Long-term exposures among individuals are associated with the development of health issues like chronic bronchitis, weakened lung function, and increased chances of premature death.

Particulate matter can also trigger temporary symptoms like nose, eyes, and throat irritation, chest tightness, phlegm, and shortness of breath. If the particulate pollution levels look alarming, individuals might even experience wheezing, coughing, chest discomfort, and unexplained fatigue.

Particulate Matter Targets Individuals With Underlying Health Conditions

While particulate pollution impacts a majority of the population, it is the people with underlying health conditions who are more vulnerable to the health risks associated with it.

Inhalation of these pollutants can exacerbate the symptoms of individuals with heart and lung diseases. People with asthma, coronary artery disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure are the most susceptible to these pollutants.

Individuals with diabetes, older adults, and children are also highly vulnerable to particulate pollutants.

Particulate Matter Exposure Can Be Prevented With Face Masks

Despite the escalating levels of particulate matter in the atmosphere, effective steps can still be taken to ensure individual protection. One of the most important safety precautions, in this scenario, includes the usage of high-quality air masks – especially where the outdoors are concerned.

Masks with ultra-efficient filtration, like those created by AusAir, help eliminate more than 99% of particulate matter ranging from PM10 to PM0.1. A simple, routine mask-wearing habit has the potential to prevent inevitable life-threatening diseases that result from particulate pollution over time.

Published by HOLR Magazine.