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Published on Oct 13, 2016
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) describes particulate matter, also referred to as PM, as a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Some particles, such as dust, dirt, soot or smoke, are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye. Others are so small they can only be detected using an electron microscope.
Because particulate matter is so small, it can be inhaled and cause serious health problems. Particles less than 10 micrometers (PM10) in diameter pose the greatest problems as they can get deep into people’s lungs and some may even get into the bloodstream.
The EPA reports that exposure to such particulates can affect both the lungs and the heart. People with heart or lung diseases, children and older adults are the most likely to be affected by exposure. The agency states that numerous scientific studies have linked exposure to a variety of health issues, including: • premature death in people with heart or lung disease • nonfatal heart attacks • irregular heartbeat • aggravated asthma • decreased lung function • increased respiratory symptoms, such as irritation of the airways, coughing or difficulty breathing
Sources of particulate matter can come from both indoor and outdoor environments. Workers in a number of occupations could be at increased risk of exposure to particulate matter and exposures to some types are regulated to protect workers’ health.
For those concerned about exposure to particulate matter in their home or work environment, there are professionals who are trained to utilize particle counters, aerosol monitors and conduct other forms of air sampling and testing to identify potential exposure concerns and mitigate risks.
These are just a few things to know about particulate matter pollution and potential health concerns. To learn more about this or other air quality, environmental, occupational or health and safety issues, please visit the websites shown below.