Particulate Pollution Particulate Matter Pm EPA

Particulate pollution, also known as particulate matter (PM), encompasses a wide array of airborne pollutants that can affect an individual’s breathing and well being. The US EPA classifies PM in two categories: particulates that measure between 2.5-10 microns in diameter, and particulates that are less than 2.5 microns in diameter. Healthy individuals tend to be able to catch the particulate matter that fall in the 2.5-10 micron category in their mucosal linings. However, there is room for this size matter to pass into the lungs, creating health issues. Of even bigger concern are the super tiny particulates that are less than 2.5 microns in diameter.

The tiny particulates that measure less than 2.5 microns can be a direct result of industrial processes, forest fires, and automobiles. Particles this size are the major cause of what Americans call “haze”, where it’s common especially in the summertime for it to be “hazy” in cities. These particles are so tiny that it would take 30 of these particles lined up next to each other to equal the thickness of a single human hair.

Fine particulates contribute to numerous health problems, including asthma, irregular heartbeat, chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and can irritate the airways. They are not only a strain on the health of people, but can also be a contributing factor in acid rain, salinization of soil, crop damage, and can throw the balance of an ecosystem out of whack, so to speak. Important monuments, such as cathedrals, historical landmarks, and other stone based monuments can be damaged by the settling of particulates which eat away at the stone.

What can you do to protect yourself? If you already have breathing related problems or a suppressed immune system, you should keep yourself informed of the air quality in your area by watching the weather channel. When the air quality is not satisfactory, minimize your movements outdoors and try to rest as much as possible to minimize the impact of the poor air quality. Installation of air purifiers in your home can also help reduce particulates in your home. Do not burn candles unless they are of soy base and do not emit smoke, as these produce many particulates that can affect your health. And most importantly, do not smoke. This one is obvious for many reasons.

It’s also important to minimize your impact on the environment. Drive your vehicle only when necessary. Try to group automobile trips into one event. Carpool when possible, and if possible, walk or ride a bike to work. It’s good exercise and it beats sitting in a car in traffic! Do not burn garbage, and take care of your vehicles. Well-tuned vehicles will be better for the environment then cars that need a tune-up. Become involved and help others to learn of particulate matter. We created much of the particulate pollution that is present today, and it is our responsibility to reduce it.