Why is Particulate Matter (PM10 and PM2.5) harmful for humans

Particulate Matter is the microscopic particles present in air which is responsible for air pollution. It may harm human body up to different extent depending on its level in your city. Some cities of the world have already reached the dangerous level of Particulate Matter (PM10 and PM2.5). Here we will tell you how the Particulate Matter harms human health and why some experts believe that it is responsible for increasing cases of cancer.

From where this harmful Particulate Matter comes from ?
Most of the sources of air pollution generate the particulate matter. Some common sources are construction sites, unpaved roads, fields, smokestacks or fires. Automobiles, industries and power plants emit gaseous wastes such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which further react with atmospheric gases and create particulate matter. 

How small is the Particulate Matter ?
Particulate matter is always present in air in different sizes and amount. Its size is measured in micrometers. PM2.5 means particulate matter of size lesser than 2.5 micrometers. Similarly PM10 means particulate matter of size lesser than 10 micrometers. To get a rough idea of this size, you should know that thickness of a normal hair is around 70 micrometer. So you can't see these air pollutants with naked eye.

Why is Particulate Matter (PM10 and PM2.5) harmful for humans ?

Particulate Matter of size less than 10 micrometers can easily get into our lungs through breathing process. Some of it is solid particles while some is liquid particles. PM2.5 can enter into our blood stream through lungs and posses further risk for health. Several respiratory diseases are contributed to Particulate Matter depending on the type you are inhaling. Particulate Matter can irritate and corrode the alveolar wall and reduce lung function to a great extent. How worse is PM for health is determined by its size, composition, origin, solubility. PM produced through wild fire can affect differently from the PM produced through diesel engines. Here are some facts about health deterioration due to Particulate Matter.

  • “Harvard six Cities Study” published in 1996 concluded that PM2.5 was one of the causative factors of human non-accidental death.
  • Daily mortality rate of humans is found higher in cities with higher levels of PM2.5 . 
  • PM2.5 can cause asthma, respiratory inflammation, jeopardizes lung functions, cardiopulmonary diseases and even promotes cancers.
  • Average life span is decreased by 8.6 months in European Union countries due to increased  PM2.5 levels. (Reference)

What can we do to save ourselves from the harmful Particulate Matter ?
Getting aware of the air quality around you can save you to some extent if you prefer to wear air mask (to inhale less polluted air). But some people find it hard to wear a mask whole day. If it is possible then relocating yourself to a less polluted area is better than wearing a mask (but it is not possible for most of us). However making people and government aware of this health hazard and reducing pollution on large scale can be a real solution to this problem. Tree plantation and reducing the automobiles on roads is something that the people need to do to save themselves from PM10 and PM2.5. But some bigger steps are also necessary to be taken by governments to reduce air pollution, which includes making strict laws for industries to restrict their gaseous wastes from entering into the atmosphere.
Air purifies are boosting their sales by creating a fear among people for PM10 and PM2.5, but the truth is that they can't save you when you go to your office and when your kids go to school. All places can't be air sealed. Evan a house with air purifiers can't be kept without ventilation, as it will create other health hazards. 

To know about the PM10 and PM2.5 levels in your city visit PM10 and PM2.5 in your city.
According to WHO annual level of PM2.5 should be less than 10 μg/m3 while PM10 should be less than 20 μg/m3. But there are some well known cities where this level is always 20 times more.

Note: All people on planet earth share the same air. Air Pollution in one country can easily reach the neighboring countries as there are no borders for air. So it is a duty of everybody to keep the air clean. Making people aware of this knowledge can help us in creating a better environment for future generations.
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