Air Pollution Facts:
Air pollution comes in many forms. We are going to discuss particulate matter which is the most prevalent and harmful component to air pollution.
What is Particulate Matter?
IT’S AIR DIRT.
Particulate matter, also called particle pollution, is a year round pollutant that represents all solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air, not including water vapour. So essentially it’s tiny solid or liquid air dirt that is light enough to float around in the air. This includes pollen, dust, dirt, soot, and smoke. Most particulate matter is so small that it isn’t visible to the naked eye. It floats through the air and we breathe it in with every breath. PM is the air pollutant that causes the most harmful health effects.
Particulate matter can be broken down into two categories based on SIZE:
- PM10 – Coarse inhalable particles between 2.5 and 10 microns (micrometers) in diameter.
- Individual particles cannot be seen with the naked eye, but collectively can appear as haze, dust, or soot.
- PM2.5 – Fine inhalable particles that are less than 2.5 microns in diameter.
- Large concentrations of this type of PM are what cause the ‘haze’ you see in the air.
How small is this? The average human hair is 70 microns in diameter, so these are pretty tiny pieces of dirt.
The PM2.5 is usually of most concern because these really small pieces of air dirt can get deep into the lung tissue where it can accumulate causing issues for the lung and it can enter the blood. Our blood comes in contact with every single piece of tissue in your body! Particulate matter has been found in the lung, kidney, brain, lymph nodes, nasal cavity and blood stream.
Sources of Particulate Matter
PM is comes from both natural and man-made sources. PM is primarily formed from chemical reactions in the atmosphere and through fuel combustion.
Natural sources of PM include: Plant and animal organic matter (shed skin, hair and plant fibers), forest fires, volcano eruptions, wind erosion, pollen, bacteria, and mold.
Man-Made sources make up the bulk of PM. They include: agricultural operations, industrial processes, combustion of wood and fossil fuels, construction and demolition activities, cement and concrete industry, road dust, diesel exhaust particles, and residential fireplaces.
OVERALL – living close to cities and industrial type operation plants will increase this particle pollution.
Can this Air Dirt Harm Me?
In high enough amounts, particulate matter can be harmful to everyone with a set of lungs which is most likely you.
I know what you are thinking. “But I don’t have any lung or heart issues, why would I need to be worried about this?” Great question. Both indoors and outdoors, these particles work their way into the lungs when we breathe, and can cause issues in the cardiovascular system and lung system. Studies have shown that this air dirt can end up in the blood. The blood is the road that travels to every single piece of tissue in the body so when it enters the blood, it can then have access to every single type of tissue in the body. A study showed that after the second day of exposure, this air dirt ends up in the blood, lungs, liver, kidney, heart, lymph nodes, nasal cavity and brain.
So why should you care about this if you feel fine now? What causes disease? All chronic disease happens by an accumulation of assault to the body. Why would you knowingly breathe in dirty air that can contribute to long term damage? So even if you don’t have an issue now that you are aware of, down the line this could contribute to something more serious.
According to the World Health Organization, outdoor air pollution kills 3.3 million people, mostly in cities, every year. That’s more than HIV, malaria and influenza combined. Many cities are not even monitored, so that number is likely a lot higher. Do you get a flu shot? Statistically speaking the flu is less likely to kill you than air pollution. So if you get the flu shot to prevent the flu bug, then probability wise it would make sense to take preventative action to reduce the harmful effects of pollution.
What places have the highest amount of particulate matter?
Particulate matter is usually found in the highest amounts around cities and busy roads. But these tiny particles can be carried long distances by the wind. I wouldn’t arm yourself with a false sense of safety just because you live in the country. Pollution produced in the cities will follow the natural wind patterns and can end up hundred of miles away from the original source.
What Can Help?
So what exactly can be done to help prevent this air dirt from making you sick? Our homes are where we usually spend the majority of our time so ensuring clean air here is a great start. Air purifiers have filters that are specifically designed to capture particulate matter so that it will stay out of the air.
Our top pick air purifier for particulate matter is the Winix 5500-2. This choice is based on its competitive price, spectacular reviews and its multiple filter systems installed within the unit.
To read the reviews and unit specs on amazon click here – Winix 5500-2 Air Purifier with True HEPA, PlasmaWave and Odor Reducing Carbon Filter