Particulate matter is a collective name for all particles that are present in the air. The larger particles like dust and pollen are visible, but the smaller particulate matter is so small you cannot see it. This is what makes particulate matter an intangible subject, you cannot see it and therefore you do not know it is there. However, this does not mean that it does not affect your health. Research shows that particulate matter affects your health at all concentrations and especially the smallest particles are the most harmful to your body. But how small is particulate matter actually?
Particulate matter is, based on the size of the particle, classified in four groups: PM10, PM2.5, PM1 and Ultra-fine particulate matter. To clarify how small this really is, we compare the size of the largest particle from each particulate matter group with the diameter of a human hair.
Particulate matter that is classified as PM10, are all particles that are smaller than 1/5th of a human hair. These particles are smaller than 0.001 cm. By comparison, the largest PM10 particle fits 1.000 times in 1 cm.
Examples of PM10 particles are pollen, fungi and red blood cells.
Particulate matter that is classified as PM2.5, are all particles that are smaller than 1/20th of a human hair. These particles are smaller than 0.00025 cm. By comparison, the largest PM2.5 particles fits 4.000 times in 1 cm.
Examples of PM2.5 particles are bacteria, combustion particles and organic compounds.
PM1 and Ultra-fine particulate matter
PM1 is, together with Ultra-fine particulate matter, the smallest particulate matter and also most dangerous to your health. These particles are so small that they easily pass through the lung vesicles and reach the entire body. Ultra-fine particulate matter even ends up in the brain.
PM1 particles are 1/50th of a human hair and are smaller than 0.0001 cm. By comparison, the largest PM1 particle fits 10.000 times in 1 cm. The largest Ultra-fine particle even fits 100.000 times in 1 cm.
Examples of PM1 and Ultra-fine particles are traffic emissions, combustion particles, cigarette smoke and viruses.
Particulate matter related health issues
Researchers indicate that exposure to particulate matter, in any concentration, is harmful for your health. It also shows particulate matter related mortality can be reduced by 50% by reducing the (indoor) air pollution by 25% in the cleanest areas (such as Europe). So it is important to reduce the amount of particulate matter as much as possible.
View the effects of particulate matter on the body in the following illustration.
For more information on particulate matter, visit the Dutch site www.fijnstof.info. Do you want more information on removing particulate matter from the air? Check out our products or contact us for personal advice.