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19 Mar 2016

Particulates pollution: Beware of the danger in your city

We all are aware of the air pollution and its impacts on human life but we may not know how big is the problem. As per a research, air pollution is the 4th biggest cause of the early deaths and it is above the alcohol and drug abuse in the top ten list. It killed 5.5 million people in year 2013. Air pollution is caused by harmful gases (like NOx, SOx, CO), volatile organic compounds, biological molecules and Particulates. Major sources of these pollutants are vehicles, chemical industries and coal & furnace oil based power plants. Many of us will be surprised to see particulates in the lists. These are less known but most dangerous part of air pollution. Years of data compilation and research has revealed the dangers of particulates. So what exactly are particulate matters? Why are they causing so much deaths and what is their concentration in my city? We are going to answer all these questions here
particulates size as comapre to human hair
Michael Brauer (Epidemiologist in University of BC, Canada) says that air pollution is a known serious cause of number of health effects.

As per NASA, about 2.1 million deaths in 2013 were caused by fine particulates directly.(source)

Check below map to find mortality rate due to air pollution in your area.

Air pollution map
Air Pollution map of the world

what are particulates?

Particulate matter or particulates (PM) are mixture of small solid particles and liquid droplets present in the air. Typically particulates are formed when dust, metal or soot particles come in contact with water or acids in atmosphere. This is there small size which makes them so much dangerous. As per Environmental protection agency (EPA) of USA, there are two types of particulate matters based upon their size.

Inhale able coarse particles (PM10)

Particulates smaller than 10 mm but larger than 2.5 mm are inhale able coarse particles. These are mostly found near highways, cement industries and other such dusty areas.

Fine particles (PM2.5)

Particulates smaller than 2.5 mm are named as fine particles. These are usually emitted from sources like forest fires and power plant emitted gases.

Learn waste water management during shale gas production

Dangers of Particulates

These small particles looks quite harmless but they do more damage then we think. Human has natural prevention system to avoid entry of particulates in human body by inhalation. Nose hairs act as filters to avoid solid particles entry but particles smaller than 10 micron can pass and enter in human lungs, where they cause serious damage.
Some symptoms of particulate exposure include
Irregular heart beats
Severe asthma
Difficulty in breathing
Nose itching and other symptoms of allergy
For children, heart and asthma patients these symptoms can be even more serious and have long term impacts including non-fatal heart attacks and decreased lung function.

Studies has revealed that fine particulates (PM
2.5) are more hazardous than Inhale able coarse particulates (PM10) due to presence of poly aromatic hydrocarbons and other organic compounds.

WHO standard for particulates

World health organization consider the impact of particulates. There is no safe threshold but WHO has guideline values to minimize the exposure of these particulates.

10 μg/m3 (mean) annual
25 μg/m3 (mean) 24-hr

20 μg/m3 (mean) annual
50 μg/m3 2(mean) 24-hr

But unfortunately, most of the metropolitan’s areas of the world has high concentration of particulates.

A study of 190 cities of China revealed that only 25 cities meet China’s national air quality standard. Mean of PM2.5 in chines cities is 61 μg/m3 and it is 3 times higher than world’s average. (source)

Check Air Quality in your Area

To find real time air quality data of your area visit this real time air quality index (AQI) data. This data includes PM2.5, PM10, NOx and other pollutants concentration. Click on the image. 

Air quality index
Air quality Index

Future outlook

Recent data gathering revealed increase in particulate matters concentration. As they are produced from coal burning and other industries. Currently such industries are wide spread. Specially developing countries of Asia are at high risk and remember about 75% population of world lives there.

World leaders not only need to consider this risk but also take serious actions to minimize the hazard. It is really essential to make world a safer place for our future generations.

If you consider it a serious issue then raise your voice by sharing this and Let us know about particulate matters concentration in your area in comments.

Images credit : World Air pollution map (NASA)

                             Particulates (EPA