What is PM 2.5 and PM 10? How it affects Health and Air Quality?

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For the past years, air pollution has been a known fact. However, the question arises what is the deadliest thing that pollutes the air. The answers to this are PM 2.5 and PM 10 in the air.


The article below talks of how dangerous these are and how they affect the environment. It also discusses the various factors and source of emissions that result in particulate matter.

What is Particulate Matter?

Particulate matter is a mixture of several chemical species. The mixture includes solid, aerosols. These aerosols are composed of small liquid droplets, liquid coating solid cores, and dry solid fragments.

These particles have different sizes, shapes and chemical compositions. Also, they might have inorganic ions, metallic compounds, organic compounds, elemental compounds and compounds from the earth’s crust.

Moreover, these particles are basically defined by their diameter. Note that the ones having a diameter of 10 microns or less are inhalable. These can lead to adverse health effects.

The fine particulate matter is those that are 2.5 microns or less than that. Thus, PM 2.5 includes a part of PM 10.

PM 10 and PM 2.5- Sources

The PM 10 and PM 2.5 have different emission sources and different chemical compositions. PM 2.5 pollutants in the outdoor air due to emissions from combustible gasoline, oil, diesel fuel. These PM 2.5 pollutants include a part of PM 10 pollutants.

On the other hand, PM 10 results from dust from construction sites, wildfires, waste burning, landfills, bacterial fragments and pollen.

The PM either gets directly emitted into the atmosphere or formed in the atmosphere. Due to the various chemical reactions with gases like Nitrogen oxides, Sulphur oxides, and other organic compounds, PM is formed.

PM 10 and PM 2.5- Sizes

PM 2.5, from the name it is understood, are 2.5 microns or less than that in size. Similarly, PM 10 are 10 microns or less than that.

To understand it better, the width of a human hair strand is nearly 100 microns. Therefore, you can get an idea of PM 2.5 and PM 10 sizes.

Particulate Matter and Environment

The particulate matter affects visibility and adversely affects climate and ecosystems. 

Generally, PM 2.5 affects visibility. It alters the way light is absorbed and scattered in the atmosphere.

Coming to climate change, there are some constituents in the PM mixture resulting in the general warming of the climate. For example, black carbon.

On the other hand, it also contains some climate cooling constituents. These are nitrate and sulphate. Thus, the PM cools and even warms the climate.

Moreover, PM can also affect ecosystems. It can affect plants, soil, water through depositions of PM.

The metal and organic compounds present in PM are instrumental in altering plant growth and yield. Besides, PM deposition on surfaces results in the soiling of materials.

Are There Indoor Particulate Matter?

The particulate matters entering indoors through windows, doors or some other leaks.  However, these particulate matters can generate within the house as well. 

The possible sources are cooking, burning wood, incense, candles, smoking tobacco.

The household cleaning products, air fresheners also result in particulate matter.

How Dangerous are PM 10 & PM 2.5?

Note that the ones that are bigger than 10 microns cannot reach the respiratory tract. It is because they get trapped in cilia and mucus. However, the smaller ones are harmful.

If you inhale such pollutants, they can cause serious health issues. You can suffer from asthma, cardiovascular diseases, congenital disabilities, low birth weight, and many other serious health issues.

It has been seen, there have been heart diseases, DNA mutation, early death. As the ultrafine particles penetrate the bloodstream, lungs totally unfiltered, resulting in health hazards.

Moreover, these are also capable of affecting the vegetation. These are so harmful that they can block the pores and disturb photosynthesis.

Factors Affecting PM 2.5 Levels in Air

The first and foremost is the climatic factors. Wind acts as a level changer. They not only carry the particles but also bring them in as well.

Moreover, you will notice the air becomes hazy when there is a higher PM 2.5 concentration. It reduces visibility levels.

Furthermore, at the time of winter, the concentration of PM 2.5 is much higher. Thus, the air becomes heavy.

Similarly, due to indoor emission sources, there can be a higher PM 2.5 concentration, as mentioned above. 

Some Preventive Measures

Here are some preventive measures which you can follow in order to maintain your good health.

  • It is better to wear a mask.
  • Do not exercise outside if the air pollution level is higher.
  • Avoid burning wood and other thrash. These are the main reasons behind the PMs.
  • Avoid smoking
  • Use air filters. Use appliances that come with air filters.
  • Also, if possible, go for some change of place.

Note: For a better understanding, refer to our article on “What is PM 2.5 Filter? How Does it Work? “ and “ Different Types of Air Filters used in Air Conditioners and Air Purifiers”.

Wrap Up

To sum up, it is better to follow the preventive measures to prevent PM 2.5 and PM 10, as mentioned earlier. Make use of the air filters (PM 2.5 filters). Try not to contribute to polluting the air.

The simple practices by us can help us live in a better pollution-free world. Therefore, it is we who can save us.


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