Particulate Matter Information



What is Particulate Matter?

Particulate matter is a complex mix of organic and inorganic substances, found in the atmosphere in both liquid and gas phases. Coarse particulates and fine particulates are differentiated by their aerodynamic diameter (greater or less than 2.5 micrometers). Course particales usually contain materials from the earth's crust and fugitive dust from roads and industries. Fine particles contain the secondarily formed aerosols, combustion particles, and re-condensed organic and metallic vapors. Acids generally occur as fine particles. Particles can be further classified according to their origin. Primary particles are emitted directly to the atmosphere, and secondary particles are formed by reactions involving other pollutants.

Concentrations vary according to sampling technique. Urban areas have typical annual mean values between 10-40 ugm-3 (gravimetric sampling). Short-term exposures like bonfires can cause particulate concentration to increase by several hundred ugm-3. Background levels in rural levels range from 0-10 ugm-3.

Particulate matter is emitted primarily from road transport, homes, construction, mining, quarrying, power generation, and industrial combustion processes. Natural sources like volcanoes and dust storms emit particulate matter, but not nearly as much. Particulate matter can also be formed by the transformation of gaseous emissions such as oxides of sulfur and nitrogen and VOCs.

Health Risks

Size of particulate matter is directly linked to potential for health problems. Small particles pose the greatest threat because they can get deep into the lungs and even into the bloodstream. Exposure to particluate matter can cause non-fatal heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, asthma, decreased lung function, increased respiratory symptoms such as irritation, coughing, or difficulty breathing, and even premature death in people with compromised cardiopulmonary systems.

Particulate matter can cause environmental damage as well. Effects include acidifying lakes and streams, depleting nutrients in soil, affecting the diversity of ecosystems, contributing to acid rain, and damaging forests and farm crops.

Measuring Particulate Matter

The products we carry to measure Particulate Matter levels can be found HERE.

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