Every time we breathe, we are exposed to the invisible world of particulate matter, a microscopic air pollutant that poses risks to our indoor air quality, the environment and subsequently our overall health. Also known as PM, particulate matter consists of liquid or solids suspended in the air. They commonly originate from various sources, including vehicles, construction sites or even natural events like dust storms or bushfires.
In this blog post, we’ll dive into the realm of particulate matter, explore the different sizes of particulate matter and the distinction between PM2.5 and PM10, the health risks posed by it and what you can employ to mitigate its risks.
By understanding particulate matter, we can work towards effective mitigation strategies and take steps to improve indoor air quality.
Sources of particulate matter
PM can originate from various sources, both natural and human-made. Understanding the different sources is crucial for comprehending the complex dynamics of PM pollution. In this section, we differentiate the natural sources and man-made sources that contribute to the PM concentration in the air.
- Dust and soil: dust storms, wind erosion, and nearby unpaved roads can generate dust and soil particles that eventually get suspended in the air and find their way into your home via any openings, including open doors and windows.
- Pollen: during certain seasons, especially spring, plants, including trees and grass, release pollen particles that contribute to PM concentrations. This is among the main reason for spring allergies. However, allergies during summer can also be caused by this.
- Bushfires: smoke and ash particles from nearby forest fires can travel long distances and infiltrate homes. This becomes more of a risk during dry and hot seasons like summer or during El Nino and Super El Nino. The same applies to volcanic eruptions and other fire-related events.
READ MORE: How effective are air purifiers for El Nino?
- Industrial emissions: combustion is a common process in power plants, factories and industrial facilities that release fine particulate matter into the air. They can originate from burning fossil fuels, biomass and waste.
- Vehicle exhaust: motor vehicles emit particulate matter from their exhaust systems, including both PM2.5 and PM10 particles, which will be explained later in this blog post.
- Construction and demolition: construction and demolition jobs undoubtedly produce dust and other particles that will eventually remain suspended in the air. If renovation works are being done in your home, it’s best to seek temporary alternative accommodation spaces elsewhere.
It’s important to note that although particulate matter has always been present in the air, human activities have significantly increased the overall concentration in recent times. Understanding the sources of this pollution can help identify areas of intervention and actions that can be taken to mitigate particulate matter pollution and protect the health of you and your loved ones.
Health effects of particulate matter
Exposure to PM can have health risks immediately and in the long run. Depending on the size of the particulate matter and the duration of exposure, health effects may vary. Additionally, certain populations are more vulnerable to adverse health effects than others.
Short-term health effects
- Asthma symptoms: inhaling high levels of PM can cause irritation in the respiratory system, causing a person to cough, wheeze and have shortness of breath. This can be worse for those living with asthma and other respiratory diseases
- Cardiovascular effects: fine particles entering the bloodstream can cause an increased heart rate, irregular heart rhythms and reduced heart function
- Reduced lung function: exposure to particulate matter may temporarily reduce lung function, particularly in individuals with respiratory conditions like the aforementioned patient living with asthma
Long-term health effects
- Chronic respiratory diseases: prolonged exposure to particulate matter can contribute to the development and worsening of chronic diseases, including bronchitis
- Cardiovascular diseases: long term exposure has been linked to an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and high blood pressure
- Lung cancer: just like smoking, the inhalation of combustion sources can lead to lung cancer as they are classified as carcinogens which are associated with an increased risk of developing lung cancer over time.
It’s crucial to avoid exposure to particulate matter through proper ventilation, air purifiers and other means, especially during periods of high pollution. It’s also important to note that children, older adults, and those living with respiratory conditions and also cardiovascular conditions are at a higher risk of suffering from PM exposure.
What are PM2.5 and PM10?
Among the different categories of particulate matter, two key sizes of the particles are PM2.5 and PM10. 2.5 and 10 refer to their size in microns, with PM2.5 referring to particles that are 2.5 microns in size and PM10 referring to particles that are 10 microns in size.
The size of 2.5 microns refers to the diameter of the particle. Any particle measuring 2.5 microns or less is considered PM2.5. This is about 30 times smaller than the width of a human hair. They most commonly originate from the combustion process or can be formed through atmospheric reactions such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.
Due to how tiny they are, they can remain suspended in the air for long periods of time and can penetrate deep into the lungs when inhaled.
Particles that measure 10 microns or less are considered PM10. While PM10 includes all particles with a diameter of 10 microns or less, PM2.5 focuses specifically on the finer fraction of particles. This is important to know because smaller particles have a higher likelihood of reaching the lower respiratory tract and can have more severe health effects.
Air purifiers for particulate matter control
Air purifiers play a crucial role in reducing PM levels indoors, providing a cleaner and healthier living environment. Ionmax air purifiers are designed to filter out and remove airborne particles, including PM2.5 and PM10, releasing cleaner, purified air into the space.
Ionmax air purifiers utilise HEPA filters of different grades, including antibacterial HEPA H13 filters. The filters employed by Ionmax units are designed to capture microscopic allergens and germs from the air as small as 0.3 microns.
Most Ionmax air purifiers are also equipped with a built-in UV-C light that serves to inactivate trapped viruses and bacteria within the air purifier filter, ensuring your family breathes safer, cleaner and healthier indoor air.
Units like the Ionmax+ AIRE are equipped with a multitude of features, including a powerful and efficient six-stage filtration system and a smart indoor air quality monitor that detects PM levels within the air and adjusts the purification power accordingly.
By incorporating an air purifier into your indoor environment, you can significantly reduce PM levels within your home, and it will be especially beneficial for vulnerable individuals like young children, the elderly and those living with pre-existing health conditions.
With proper usage and maintenance, air purifiers can be a valuable tool in managing particulate matter to promote cleaner, healthier indoor air.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for general reference only. Please seek advice from professionals according to your needs.